Theatre production company Mercurial Wrestler has integrated the use of mobile phones into its interactive performance piece, Magna Mysteria. Having just finished a tour of venues and cities across the UK, the founders shared their experiences of using Twilio to bring out the best in their performances, and involve their audience in innovative ways.
One place a mobile phone is almost always far from welcome is at the theatre, where keeping your device on loud and proud during a show is a faux pas likely to be met by derisory tutting from your fellow patrons, and the occasional popcorn shower. Not so in the case of Bristolian theatre production company Mercurial Wrestler, who not only encourage their audience to stay connected in their latest production, Magna Mysteria, but even rely on liberal mobile usage throughout.
The brainchild of serial performer/director/producer duo Becca Gill and Jay Kerry, Magna Mysteria is an interactive, contemporary performance piece where the audience is invited to become participants in the show via augmented reality and other pervasive technologies. The production launched across a number of UK cities in summer 2013, each of which incorporated multiple venues for each performance, and plans to tour a new set of locations across the country and beyond this year. Prior to the curtain raising, each member of the audience is required to submit a number of personal details, including their names, date of birth, star sign - and crucially, telephone number - all of which are later woven into the plot in mysterious circumstances.
Each audience member is issued with an RFID enabled tarot card at the beginning of the show, each of which is pre-programmed with the user-submitted personal details. These cards play a key part in the audience participation, as performers across the numerous sites where the show’s various acts take place are issued with card readers, to give each performance a personal touch and an added layer of immersion for patrons. Upon arrival, everyone in the audience presents their cards and is shortly thereafter called on their mobile phones with dialogue and clues from the character on where to go for the next segment of the story.
For co-creator and performer Jay Kerry, Twilio was a natural choice for fulfilling the mobile-centric elements of the show. “We often use both SMS and voice calls to direct our audience around venues, and the cities in which we perform. We’ve experimented with all kinds of mediums for the audience participation parts, and Twilio has been a perfect fit for what we wanted to achieve.” The Magna Mysteria experience even extends mobile tech into the performance itself, Kerry explained. “Some of our acts feature a mystical mute character, only able to communicate through recorded messages. After playing around with various devices and formats, distributing voicemail via Twilio proved to be the ideal solution.”
Each of Magna Mysteria’s five acts, which take place across five distinct venues, are designed to be viewed and experienced in any order, with all patrons coming together for the final scenes. Even after the final curtain falls, Kerry and his team might just have a few surprises for their audiences. “I’m ever-conscious not to give too much away, but we have in the past sent an epilogue of sorts to holders of certain cards, to round off their personal experiences with the show. We promise not to bombard people with unwanted messages after that though!”