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Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL

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Skenè is a spatial, scenographic tool for participatory performance, realised with the use of robotic technology. The design creates an interactive staging space, affected by the movement and touch of performers as well as the movement and position of the audience.

As the contemporary landscape of theatre is pushing towards participatory and immersive forms of performance, Skenè questions how and when interactivity should be introduced in dramaturgy. In particular, Skenè addresses the role of set design as mediator in the interaction between actors and audience. The significance of manipulating space as a means of shaping perception in performance offers opportunities for creating a framework for exploring indeterminacies in actor-audience interrelation. An indeterminate performance alters conventional power relations between actors and audience. Skenè holds potential to be developed to act as a tool to explore the balance between unpredictability and ethics in theatre.

The spatial structure is a shape-shifting wall, a metaphor of the Fourth Wall in theatre. In the experimentation process leading up to the final design, the wall was tested as an Augmented Reality simulation before a portion of it was built using a robotic system. The wall can enact a variety of behaviours that draw upon notions of proxemics as a means of creating dramatic situations using the spatial relationships that emerge in the performance. The focus on behaviours explores degrees of control between actors and audience; the more the audience is in control, the more the performance is indeterminate and the more the actors are invited to improvise. The behaviours affect different features of the wall, from form to quality of movement and coordination. These features, as well as its inherent physical materiality, in turn transform the wall into a character and a performer.