Even the sky’s a stage

Theatre is capturing audiences who wouldn’t be seen dead in the stalls

By Dominic Cavendish

08.03.2011 / Daily Telegraph

 Friday night in Aberystwyth – and it’s bucketing down. I’m standing, drenched, beneath an umbrella, on the promenade looking out to sea – a coalface of darkness. By rights, I should be utterly miserable. What’s more, sporting chunky headphones and required to squint at an iPod screen, I should feel ridiculous. Not a bit of it. I’m too enthralled to care.
It’s not that I’m oblivious to my surroundings. The beauty of Outdoors, the latest presentation from National Theatre Wales – concocted by visiting Berlin company Rimini Protokoll – is that it uses new technology and gadgetry to bring you into closer connection with a real place, and real people.
Nine members of local choir Heartsong have recorded friendly video spiels guiding you around their favourite bits of the Welsh town, pointing out particular places of personal interest – a pot of plants outside a shop, say, or a fancy eatery that someone they know runs, or a gloomy passageway bearing a mysterious chalk-marking that’s the cue for a tall tale.
Being welcomed is what it’s all about, as you’d like to be included were you to enter a roomful of strangers. And that’s literally what happens at the show’s finale.
Once a month for the next year, on the evening the choir meets to rehearse, nine spectators will be able to undertake the trail, each carving his or her own solo, predetermined path through the town before arriving at the same time at the choir’s meeting place to hear them in full song.
Every neighbourhood should, one feels, try something similar. In a way, though, you could argue that it’s already happening. The burgeoning appetite for unconventional forms of performance – be they promenade productions or site-specific work – coupled with a hunger for a stronger sense of community is fast making all our towns a stage.