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How to… adapt your show for a non-traditional space

Eleni Edipidi in The Band. Photo: Foteini Christofilopoulou
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1. Know the environment well

We work with two strands in our practice: black box theatre and canape routines, performed in places as varied as casinos, outdoor festivals, events, children’s parties and cabarets. It’s crucial to get to know a site in advance. Visit it during the same time your performance will take place. What’s distinctive about the area? How can you use the space as part of the performance? How much natural lighting is there? Are there power sockets nearby, or a parking load if you have props to unload? Is the space smaller or bigger than the one you rehearse in? Check the weather – you may need more costume layers or sunscreen.

2. Get personal

For our new touring show, The Band, we use aerial acrobatics, contemporary dance and physical theatre. How does that transfer to a performance in a town centre? We dressed up in beautiful glittery outfits from the show’s wardrobe. Having a conversation can get audiences interested in work rather than ‘presenting’ a spectacle. Be personal, rather than portraying characters as you would in a stage performance. Dealing with onlookers rather than audiences makes a difference. People can be intimidated; we respect this. Others will be curious. Start with something practical, such as explaining you’re advertising a show, and go from there. People are usually friendly but some can be aggressive, shouting or pulling at costumes. It’s important to consider who visits the space – families, businessmen, animals – and plan for it.

3. Think on your feet

We usually perform three times per day. The first doesn’t always work. Recently we performed a 10-minute Christmas cabaret; we’d not calculated that most of our audience members were very young children, and our act was quite dark. We had to make our characters more playful and not focus too much on our initial choreographic routine. It’s scary and demanding, but adapting and accepting failure is all part of the process.

Eleni Edipidi, co-artistic director of Levantes Dance Theatre, was talking to John Byrne. The Band is now touring