Contemporary Dinner Theatre

There is this unfortunate ailment that affects anyone who has a smart phone. It is called the ‘Smart Phone Stupor’. (And yes, that is the technical term!). Whenever we are undertaking a mundane task, such as travelling on public transport, or doing something which doesn’t stimulate us to the fullest extent most people can be found immersed in their smart phone. So how does this affect entertainment?

paris cat

It is often assumed that the smart phone is the be-all and end-all of entertainment. Almost anything is accessible on a smart phone including obscure information, television shows, music, Sudoku and any number of trendy apps. But that doesn’t mean that it satisfies our need for entertainment.

There is the assumption that people rely on their smart phones as a form of life support. This isn’t exactly true. To an extent, we do find it hard to switch off for an extended period of time but that isn’t because we are addicted to the smart phone, it is because we are addicted to the high amount of stimuli. Provide anyone with the right amount of stimuli and they will completely forget about updating their Facebook status or updating their Twitter feed.

This has some interesting flow-on effects into the world of entertainment . . .

Increasingly, people are looking for opportunities to be torn away from their smart phones and immersed in real-life, interactive events. But this will only work if the entertainment satisfies their stimulus requirements.

I have trouble staying focussed on static entertainment. In order to be truly entranced (and feel that I received a great amount of value) I need full on colour, lighting, grandeur, scene changes and costume swaps as well as the full triple threat of singing, acting and dancing. This may or may not be the case for you as everybody has different levels of stimulus requirements.

But this is transcending the world of traditional entertainment. These high levels of stimuli need to be found in other everyday activities to create audience satisfaction. A great example is the Melbourne dining scene.

The food is an important part of the experience. Bad food can certainly ruin the evening and good food can go a long way to ensure it is memorable. However, it is not the only component. To satisfy this high level of stimuli, the dining experience needs to be providing stimuli that occur outside the plate. This could manifest itself in distinctive and interesting furniture, groovy lighting or prominent music – but the upcoming trend is focused on the entry.

Melbourne prides itself on its laneway culture. All the best dining options are hidden throughout the city’s laneways in nondescript locations with the concept of being ‘transported’ shaping the whole consumer experience. One minute you are standing in a pokey, garbage-ridden laneway in front of a blank, unbranded door. The next minute you have been transported into a 1940’s Jazz Club or a Japanese temple.

This level of engagement was really only previously seen in the theatre. However, the high level of stimulus required has created this new, contemporary form of dinner theatre where the theatre is the entire experience that occurs before, during and after the meal transporting the consumer into a different time or place.

There is no need to ban smart phones in these locations. In fact, people are rarely instagramming their food at these restaurants. Why? Because they are completely immersed in the experience with no room for their smart phone left in their mind!