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How to… make theatre that engages the senses

Sarah Kosar

1. Push theatre beyond sight and sound

Our senses are the way we come to perceive or understand the world around us. To make audiences feel something and challenge their point of view, exploit more than one of their senses to make it a visceral experience. I want audiences to experience my play Mumburger, not just watch it. Smelling the burgers, hearing them sizzle and watching the actors eat, you can’t escape the story in front of you. By giving audiences an active sensory experience, they migrate to asking ‘what if this was me?’ rather than passively thinking ‘these are or aren’t people like me’. This more empathetic experience can push the impact of the play beyond the theatre.

2. Find collaborators who crave provocation rather than instruction

I used to worry about whether there were unstageable elements in my plays. As a surrealist playwright, the images I create aren’t ‘a coffee table with a vase of flowers’, but ‘a burger made of Mum appears’. It’s vital to find collaborators who are excited by this type of provocation and see it as a creative offering. The way that Tommo Fowler, director of Mumburger, challenges my writing in this way is nothing short of exhilarating.

3. Use a metaphor, not a mirror

We already have a mirror of our society through social media and television. Theatre must instead offer a unique and incomparable experience of its own. Use metaphor in theatre to help us feel and understand the contradictions and juxtapositions of the human experience. Make the unthinkable not only thinkable but preferable. Your senses will be more engaged if you have to go on a journey, like the characters, to question who you are.

Sarah Kosar is in the UK on an Exceptional Promise in Playwrighting visa. Mumburger runs at the Old Red Lion [1], London, until July 22. She was talking to John Byrne