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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Fourth Wall – work in progress

Fourth Wall

 as defined by D. Diderot, “On dramatic poetry”.

“Whether you write or act, think no more of the audience than if it had never existed. Imagine a huge wall across the front of the stage, separating you from the audience, and behave exactly as if the curtain had never risen.” (Clark, 1918).

We are in the process of designing a stage that is a physical representation of the fourth wall.  In the context of our project, the fourth wall can be considered as the skin of the performance whereby it is both the separation of the world of the play from the world of reality and the membrane through which the performance and the audience come into contact with each other. By making the fourth wall a physical object that can be manipulated we aim to create a performance space that is set up via the collaboration or conversation between the audience and actors. Through the design of space we address the questions of  participation and of indetermination. On the one hand the fourth wall can cater to different degrees of participation: the audience can choose to interact eagerly but also to simply observe the performance. On  the other hand for the actors, sharing control over the spatial set-up will allow an experimental performance to take place.














We will construct a scale model of a stage, with the “fourth wall” materialised as a 1:5 robotic wall, that can be directly manipulated by any visitors through interaction based on proximity. This will be situated in the centre of our exhibition space. Around the stage, visitors will experience the space generated by an augmented reality application, a 1:1 simulation of the wall. The mutual connection between the model and the augmentation allows users to experience both controlling the space and inhabiting the space. After this initial moment of experience, a performance will be staged in augmented reality around the scale model. This performance will be a live demonstration of the effects our set-up have on the delivery of the performance. The strength of our project is in the accessibility of a downloadable app where passers by may choose to download the app and be a part of the performance. 

We are currently using our Augmented Reality application as a tool in collaboration with actors at the Central School of Speech and Drama. This is an iterative process to develop the uses and optimal configurations of the fourth wall. We are researching how it can provide a narrative structure for a partially improvised performance. The flow of the performance will be determined by the nature of the interaction between the audience, the wall and the performers, and as this will change with every performance, so will the final outcome of the narrative.

In our first approach to constructing a performance, we have chosen a narrative that is centred around the themes of borders of boundaries: these themes recall the nature of the “fourth wall” as the skin of the performance and they provide the conditions for the fourth wall to be the scenography of the play.

Credits to actors at CSSD : Yik Sau Chung and Gabriele Lombardo


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