Last weekend we brought Mr Punch’s Cabinet of Curiosities to Horror Con. It was our second visit and safe to say we had a wonderful weekend sharing our strange and mysterious objects with the lovely attendees. I really enjoy the playful space that Horror Con is. So many people (many in costume) playing with the genre, playing in the space (quite literally at times if you had a go at the Zombie Shooting gallery). Everyone seemed united in their love of the genre and the playfulness it afforded. It struck me that there are a whole bunch of interesting relationships going on in terms of immersive and non-immersive experience. And a whole bunch of frame shifting going on as players move between social reality, immersive and non-immersive play.
Mr Punch’s Cabinet of Curiosities offers this frame-shifting experience, and while I can’t offer any solid data other than conversations with our guests and our comment cards, it is possible to speculate as to the rhythm of the experience and the ludic shifts within. And without giving any spoilers – you need to come and visit yourself! – from the moment you pay your entrance fee you are given the offer to be immersed in the World of Mr Punch. Your immersive experience begins before you enter the theatre, and before you make the decision to cross the threshold.
Once you are in, there are several frames of experience on offer including; reading the carefully researched background stories of the Curiosities themselves, enjoying the character of the objects, the stories they tell through characterisation they afford, and conversing with the live Curator who, if you allow him too, will bring all frames of the experience together for you. Let’s also not forget the bonus play elements that some of the objects afford, but, for the sake of secrecy, cannot be discussed here. It’s your decision on how you play/frame your experience within the Cabinet, but what I could not fail to notice was that the like-minded souls at Horror Con playfully and freely engaged in the constant flux of re-framing, authoring their experience throughout.
I’m looking forward to next year!
Mr Punch currently lives in this Facebook Group (please ‘like’)
Further reading 😉
Machon, J. (2013) Immersive theatres: intimacy and immediacy in contemporary performance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Mizer, N. (2014) ‘‘Fun in a Different Way’: Rhythms of Engagement and Non-Immersive Play Agendas’. Analog Game Studies, 1 (1). Available at: <http://analoggamestudies.org/2014/08/179/> [Accessed 13 July 2016].
Paavolainen, T. (2010) ‘From Props to Affordances An Ecological Approach to Theatrical Objects.’. Theatre Symposium, 18, pp.116–134. I extend this discussion in; Taylor, N. (2015) ‘Impersonating Spirits: The Paranormal Entertainer and the Dramaturgy of the Gothic Séance.’. In: L. Piatti-Farnell & D. L. Brien eds. New Directions in 21st-Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass. Routledge, pp.163–174.