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The Promise of Experience: Immersive Theatre in the Experience Economy

Alston, A (2016) The Promise of Experience: Immersive Theatre in the Experience Economy In: Framing Immersive Theatre and Performance. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke.

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This chapter reflects on the centralisation of immersive experiences in contemporary cultural production, broadly conceived, comparatively analysing a range of examples including Lucien Bourjeily’s 66 Minutes in Damascus (2012), Punchdrunk’s The Crash of the Elysium (2011-12) and …and darkness descended (2011), Hilary Westlake’s Dining with Alice (1999), Florida’s Walt Disney World Resort, and US, UK and Japanese horror house culture. It situates immersive theatre within a (now) pervasive ‘experience economy’ identified by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore, and addresses a ‘gap’ between lived experiences and idealised and especially marketable experiences within this economy. Alston suggests that the entry of ethically-engaged immersive theatre into the experience economy, especially, raises a number of concerning issues once participation and immersion are aligned with one of the experience economy’s most important goals: ‘authenticity’. The chapter proposes a critique of authenticity in immersive theatre that focuses on the performance of confinement in a Syrian detention centre in Bourjeily’s 66 Minutes in Damascus, and the director’s claim that the performance offers the chance ‘to experience first-hand’ what it must be like to be detained. In conclusion, Alston explores how the assignation of authenticity to the promise of Experience merges an ethics of encounter with a consumable product for an audience’s delectation, suggesting that the ethical space left for audiences ultimately amounts to sabotage.

Item Type: Book Section
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Authors :
Date : 30 July 2016
Uncontrolled Keywords : Immersive theatre, audience participation, Experience economy, experiential marketing, experience industry, obake yashiki, Disney, Punchdrunk, Lucien Bourjeily, Hilary Westlake
Additional Information : This extract is taken from the author's original manuscript and has not been edited. It is reproduced here with permission of Palgrave Macmillan. The definitive, published version of record is available here: and
Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 27 Jan 2016 14:55
Last Modified : 27 Jan 2016 15:02

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