Promenade theatre normally involves outdoor performances in public places, such as city laneways or town streets. Multiple locations for staging is common (though “stages” as such, are not), with the audience asked to move throughout the performance and follow the action as it progresses. In one sense, promenade theatre is a modern-day version of Medieval staging on pageant wagons, or “mansions”.
Promenade theatre often blurs the physical space between performer and spectator, sometimes seeing actors deliberately performing in and around the audience. On occasions, promenade theatre can be historical in nature and site-specific, such as indoor performances in castles and other non-traditional theatre spaces.
This type of theatre is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, but also has a following in other Western countries.
- intimate actor-audience relationship – often both occupying the same space
- an interactivity with the audience unable to be achieved in traditional theatre spaces
- audience experience is very meaningful due to close proximity between actor and spectator
- aesthetics (laneways, castles, historical buildings etc.)
- actors lines can be easily “lost” during outdoor performances
- lack of options with set design
- logistics involved with a moving performance and/or audience
- lack of control over the audience’s behaviour
A Younger Theatre Article discussing promenade theatre staging, highlighting several UK companies employing this form.
BBC Bitesize Brief entry on informal theatre spaces, including promenade theatre.
Dictionary Central Useful explanation of promenade theatre and etymology of the word “promenade”.
Lou Rowe Explanation of promenade theatre with examples.
Scottish Arts Council Brief discussion of the characteristics of promenade theatre and its popularity in Scotland.
Drama and Theatre Studies Excerpt on promenade theatre from Mackey and Cooper’s text Drama and Theatre Studies.