Monday, January 12, 2009

Do audiences expect their theatre to be brand free?

On the weekend I went to see famed Canadian director Robert Le Page’s production of Lip Synch as part of the Sydney Festival.

The production was 9 hours, punctuated by 5 intervals.

Despite this herculean duration, time seemed to float by. The production had a filmic like quality and a rich visual language. It was incredibly moving, inspired and at times very funny.

Lip Synch got me thinking about two things.

First, Le Page’s company Ex Machina receives a significant amount of government funding which means he can spend up to two years developing a work like this. This incubation period is a rare luxury in the world of theatre and one unimaginable in Australia’s climate.

It also flys in the face of the notion of beta testing which characterises a lot of creative development in the world of digital. New dramatic texts may have their own beta phase through creative workshops, dramaturg involvement and readings, but rarely do they incorporate the views, feedback and experiences of the audience.

Second, theatre is one arena where brand involvement still amounts to traditional sponsorship and rarely leaps the integration fence. Is it taboo or something that has gone largely unexplored?

One exception is Pot Noodle, a musical comedy that premiered at the 2008 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Created by the smart folks at UK ad outfit Mother especially for their client Unilever, it was set in a Pot Noodle factory, and based on creative concepts that had underpinned years of advertising.

So the big question is, do audiences expect the theatre environment to remain ‘clean’?


Adam Ferrier said...

Kate some years ago Naked Australia worked in collaboration with a theatre company to try and align brands to their performances. However, the motivations of the theatre company were not 'financial', they were purely artistic.

Brands need to speak another language rather than just helping out with the cash to integrate into more artistic endeavours.

dirkthecow said...

What Pot Noodle did was fantastic, though as you point out it was a continuum of a long term strategy and on-going campaign.

It was innovative, but it was also based on an existing track record of producing ad campaigns that had cult status.