There are some people out there who apparently think that technology is only a fad that is going to fade out. Then there are the clever ones who actually move with the changes and stay relevant. Guess which one I’m going to talk about in this post.

Phone_ZoneI was reading a review of an opening night that contained the following sentence:

“Rows and rows of young things, poking incessantly at the
mobile devices pre-show, dominated the audience.
One wonders how long it will be before phones are
compulsorily checked in at cloak rooms”

Surely this isn’t the future for theatre – checking all phones into cloak rooms. It’s quite an old fashioned way of thinking and, to be honest, a little impractical. Can you imagine 2,500 theatre-goers lining up for their phones after a performance? In fact, can you imagine 2,500 pigeon holes in which phones will be checked?

I did not intend this blog post to be a rant on such an old fashioned opinion, so I am going to save it and mention a couple of reasons why mobile phones should be included in the theatre experience.

Firstly, mobile phones are not going to disappear and people are only going to continue to bring them to the theatre, so let’s use them. The musical version of The Addams Family recently took this approach by introducing these gadgets in a practical way. The final number before interval is a song about revealing secrets at a dinner party – it makes sense when you have seen the show. As a result, at interval all patrons are encouraged to anonymously text a secret to an Addams Family hotline and the best secret each night won a set of fridge magnets and a t-shirt. How clever . . .

Secondly, all entertainment organisations are starting to discover how to provide an enhanced experience through these devices. Whether that is tweeting at your favourite reality television show or keeping track of all the match statistics at the footy, your experience is arguably enhanced by the ability to access this extra content. How long will it be until a new show decides to take advantage of this new ability and provides extra content on mobile devices during the show.

Taking this point a step further, how long until part of the performance is actually shown through a form of mobile device? We are seeing these advancements in Alan Cumming’s one-man Macbeth where extra scenes (that are happening off-stage) are shown on video monitors above the stage – why not put them on the audience’s phones so that they feel like they are actually sitting at the video control desk of the mental asylum where the play is set?

We generally shy away from change as it breaks us out of the usual rhythms that we are used to, but the theatre has broken so many boundaries before (that involve more than just singing in the aisles) and some of them are tip-toeing their way over these boundaries as we speak. These examples are only the start – Imagine the possibilities once we fully integrate new technology into the experience.

Do you have any more ideas about how mobiles could be incorporated into theatre? Let me know below in the comments.