How did Puncture the Screen initially come about?
I was doing my PhD in data driven theatre and I wanted to look at some examples of data driven art and performance, and I was struggling to find any, especially those using real time audience data to meaningfully influence the artwork or show. So I decided to stage a festival where we could exhibit this artwork and teach other people more about it so that they can make it themselves too.
Why is it important to showcase art and performance work that is driven by forms of data?
There is a a lot of doom and gloom about data, often for good reason, but not every use of data driving something needs to be scary. We want to show that audience data can be used like any other artistic material. Also, given all the public interest in personal data, making artwork about that aspect of our present using the very thing that we’re all talking about to make that story or commentary works really well. It’s a perfect match of form and content.
Are there any events you’re particularly looking forward to in the programme?
So we’ve been working on an augmented reality theatre system for people’s homes a while and we’re finally exhibiting a prototype of it at the festival at The Garage in Norwich and Broadway Cinema in Nottingham. It is called Fabula, and features hologram versions of performers acting in a short play called Chk-Chk Bang by Doug Deans. The audience also get to choose the cast of their own version of the play, which is a fun concept we’ve played around with before, but fits perfectly with the data driven nature of the festival and with the interactivity innate within this experience.
What would you like audiences to take away from the festival?
A little entertainment, a little enlightenment, a little social bonding with other people in the festival both in person and online for the hybrid events. Also, the festival is full of opportunities to learn about data driven art, digital theatre, computer animation, creative accessibility, and all manner of other 21st century arts practices.
Is there anything you’d like to say to other theatre companies of the same scale?
Have big ideas and find the ways for you to afford to do them with the resources that you have. It won’t always work out, but when it does you’ll learn a huge amount about how to make work sustainably and affordably. This is how we started and grew the festival and it’s how we’ve managed to stage almost 100 shows since we started in 2019 and continue to innovate creative practices. We always want to find ways to allow us, and the artists we work with, to spend most of their time being artists and we do genuinely believe that most other creatives can do that too, so long as that creative compromise can be found.