Inside a Coney Masterclass: Part 1

In February, we held a week-long Masterclass in the principles, processes and techniques of Coney. A group of creative and curious people gathered together to share ideas and learn skills and tools for responsive performance, storytelling, manifesto-making, interactive design, dramaturgy, game design, and of course, adventure-making. One such participant was Sarah Hoover, whose superpowers include Precognition When Deciding Which Queue In the Supermarket Will Be Shortest and Light-Bulb Busting at Inconvenient Moments.
Keep an eye out for Katrine Turner‘s reflections on the week, coming soon…
The Coney masterclass teaches techniques, structures and processes that have been honed in Coney productions, and that information is wonderful. But true to Coney’s values, the masterclass unlocked something more important and long-lasting for me. It taught me to trust the playful instincts of a good team.
Working with theatre-makers who focus on music, intermedial and interactive performance, digital connections, game mechanics, and site and exploration of place offered us all access to the most interesting and diverse brains as tools of play-making. Tassos Stevens highlighted those tools and taught us the systems that Coney has used to make such uniquely different performances as RSVP, REMOTE, and Adventure 1. We used basic playground games and step-by-step explorations into the world of our performance, the systems of relationship and opportunity, and the framework of action, concept, and environment that go into a tightly produced performance which still offers its audience opportunities to play. We worked with secrets to raise the stakes and competition that becomes collaboration. And together we built a thing!  
 Screen Shot 2016-05-12 at 10.53.52
I’m most interested in why and when people engage with performances, where in the performance they feel safe contributing, and how to reflect the amazing things that audiences come up with. Whether the space they work in is digital or physical, confined or out in the city, games are the secret to success for so many productions. And Coney’s history of using games in so many different ways gave us, in the masterclass, the inspiration to use varied games and styles of playing in our final production. From a treasure hunt to a ‘write your own ruleset’ billiards game to a huge mockup of the Guardian’s front page (that was my baby) and more, we played with spaces and ideas and people and we welcomed the audience into that play.
Working within Coney’s playfulness helped me shape the intentions of my work in participatory theatre and larp. We layered reflections on the world outside the walls into our fun and sometimes silly games so that the the treasure hunt also became a story about office bullying and small acts of kindness, or the mockup game also became a collaborative effort to celebrate local histories. We were encouraged to develop production concepts which would give audiences access to the event on numerous levels, and then to consider what design choices might enhance our concept. For example, if a pervasive game accidentally sends a participant the wrong direction, how can we bring them back into the story without breaking the immersion? Would it be more exciting to have an empty tour bus pull up next to them, or for a stranger to slip them a note? And what about those two choices clarifies or emphasizes the world you want to create? Perhaps the note-giver is a better choice if your world is full of international spies. But perhaps the tour bus is better for a new world in which the participant must make political decisions, especially if the tour guide tells ridiculous and conflicting lies about the purpose and history of buildings on the route.
I’m grateful to Tassos and to Coney for the opportunity to see inside the workings and discover how games are turned into beautiful and meaningful productions. Coney is a great example of how to do it – a number of ‘its’ – and I’m delighted I had the chance to play!
Sarah Hoover


We’ll be holding another Masterclass in July. If you’re interested in attending, drop us a line at and we’ll get in touch when more details are available.

2 Responses to “Inside a Coney Masterclass: Part 1”

    • Coney HQ

      Wonderful! We’ll get in touch with you when the details are confirmed.


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