We Are Now: Festival Focus

We discover more about We Are Now, the festival exploring how theatre can embrace new technology.

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We Are Now is a festival that spans millennia. It mixes one of the world’s oldest art forms with the cutting edge of advancement. Running at Rich Mix at the start of September, it brings together theatre and technology, pushing the boundaries of both to create unique experiences.

Audiences heading to the arts centre in Shoreditch can lose themselves in virtual reality, explore stories using their phones and even hear music created with a tesla coil. It’s enough to make a scientist mad with excitement.

We discover more about the We Are now festival:

What is We Are Now?

We Are Now is a festival that explores the creative use of technology in performance to pioneer new methods of immersive experience. The programme presents live performances using virtual reality, binaural sound, metadata, gameshow voting, a hacked drum kit and a sonic tesla coil, all used in new and unusual ways to tell stories and engage audiences.

Why is it important to have a festival like We Are Now?

Technology is progressing at a rate of knots. We’ve more and more possibilities at our fingertips to discover new ways of creating art. We wanted to engage in that, to open a conversation on how we use our technologies and how we can adapt and integrate them for creative means to find new ways of telling narratives.

We Are Now showcases emerging talent alongside more established companies. It offers a platform to artists pushing the boundaries of their specialism and exploring new forms of theatre making.

Has the festival evolved since it was launched last year?

Absolutely, because in Year 1, we were testing the water. We developed the project with The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and we had no idea how audiences would receive this concept. Luckily, the response was hugely positive and taught us a lot for this year’s programme. This We Are Now is smaller, very theatre focused and the quality of work is really high.

We Are Now at Rich Mix
We Are Now at Rich Mix

Are there any themes – other than technology – that draw this year’s shows together?

The programme this year is thematically very varied. They all consider human connection, developing immersive experiences and new ways of engaging theatre audiences. Some of the programme is playful and involves audience participation, while some encourage audiences to explore narratives across multiple platforms. Others are mindful and insightful, and also offer space to reflect.

What did you look for when programming the festival?

We looked for artists and companies that take risks and create new ways of developing narratives and engaging with audiences. The work this year is incredibly strong. Each artist has approached their method of engaging with technology in such interesting and innovative ways. The intention first and foremost is to consider new ways of connecting with people and developing performance. This year’s programme really reflects this.

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s never seen a We Are Now show before?

Buy A Revolver by Produced Moon. Audiences experience their show using mobile phones and headphones. It is based on the story of Constance Markievicz, a female revolutionary in the Easter uprising in Ireland. They invite guests to navigate the venue and also the surrounding streets, drawing on the history of Markievicz and intermingling it with the landscape that audiences move through. It’s a beautifully crafted form of augmented reality and storytelling.

We Are Now at Rich Mix
We Are Now at Rich Mix

Which show would you recommend for someone who’s more familiar with We Are Now or tech?

XFRMR by Robbie Thomson, a Glasgow based Cryptic associate artist. It’s our only music performance and it’s spectacular.

Robbie uses a large tesla coil as a musical instrument. He harnesses the sonic capabilities of the high frequency pitch while mixing a full live music and AV show on stage at the same time. He works between the fields of visual art, music and theatre and his practice has often focused on the use of new technologies as a thematic departure point and also as a methodology for his work.

What is your own We Are Now highlight?

That’s a difficult one for me to answer as I am so excited about the whole programme! I’m particularly interested in CiRCA69’s The Cube as we worked with him to create a theatrical experience using Virtual Reality. It’s an intimate 1-1 performance, using transmedia storytelling with multiple layers for audiences to discover long after their time in The Cube has ended.

We Are Now runs at Rich Mix on 1 and 2 September.