This paper will investigate two theatre works to reflect upon the evolving meaning of the ‘audience’ when taken out of the traditional venues and the elusive experience of attending site-specific work. With Corcadorca’s production of Enda Walsh’s How These Desperate Man Talk at the Kinsale Arts Festival (2014) and ANU’s Vardo (2014) at the Dublin Theatre Festival, the notion of a passive spectator is under attack. The fact that both theatre companies are devoted to developing innovative off-site theatre and creating new exchanges with audiences offers a common ground for a practice which proves most heterogeneous and destabilising for spectators and researchers alike.
The shows play with the wide range of possibilities offered by a tentatively termed ‘site-specificity’ to focus on the engagement with a community or an elitist audience and to modify narrative expectations. As such we shall make us of the theoretical and PaR-based vocabulary proposed by Wrights & Sites and Wilkie to question what tends to be involved in this relationship between work, site and spectator(s).
We will explore the various contexts in which the audience is positioned and the nature of the constructed journeys. The different levels of site-specificity will impact on the form of reception and therefore the role, status and limits of the audience member(s). Finally, approaching the two plays via the spectator/audience will allow for a reading of the theatre experience that opens up on aesthetic and political as well as methodological considerations.