Influencer: Richard Crawford of Secret Theatre Project

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Ahead of Secret Theatre Project’s fourth season in Hong Kong – which will run September 17 to November 9, 2019 – founder Richard Crawford speaks to Gayatri Bhaumik about what audiences can expect from this year’s show.

Seeking an alternative to the usual theatre show, Richard Crawford founded the Secret Theatre Project to offer audiences a more engaging, immersive theatre experience. After successful performances in New York, the Project went on to host shows in London and Singapore; after visiting a friend in Hong Kong, Crawford decided the city was ripe for immersive theatre and brought the first Secret Theatre Project experience here in 2015.

What exactly is the Secret Theatre Project?

We are a site-specific, immersive theatre company. We perform theatrical productions across the globe where the audience is brought into the narrative. 

What inspired you to start the Project? 

I was living in New York when we started the company; we just wanted to create a different experience than the usual Broadway shows aimed at tourists. We wanted to take the people who make up the fabric of the city on a unique journey where they can interact with characters and even become some themselves. It was exciting and challenging, a new genre where we were learning as we went along. By making everything secret, from the location to the show title, it really was the opposite of a big Broadway show.

What can audiences expect from this year’s show? 

If the last show I did in Hong Kong was considered a physical challenge for some, then this is definitely more of a mental challenge. The audience is also getting the ultimate power on the show! The audience will get to explore various crime scenes and be part of a TV production. My favourite food is Thai, so I’m really glad we have partnered with Aaharn on the pre- and post-dinners. We can finally offer some truly amazing food options on the evening. 

Why choose to bring the Secret Theatre Project to Hong Kong? Are audiences here ready for this?

This is our fourth show in Hong Kong, and two previous shows sold out, so I would say so! I came to Hong Kong on a whim and really fell in love with the energy of the city – everyone I met was really positive about the Secret Theatre and were really keen on it coming here. 

Why choose to stage this in Tai Kwun? 

It’s naturally a very dramatic and theatrical space, and it’s new in the city so it’s really perfect for our audiences. The history and themes of the space also tie in with our show wonderfully.  

A publicity still for this year's Secret Theatre Project.
A publicity still for this year’s Secret Theatre Project.

What are the challenges of hosting a show like this in Hong Kong?

Right now could be considered a challenging time for obvious reasons, but we are remaining positive, and with selected dates already sold out, we hope we can bring some positive vibes to the city we dearly love. 

You’ve also hosted Secret Theatre Projects in London and Singapore. What do you think makes the Secret Theatre Project appealing to global audiences? 

I think people like an adventurous experience, we all want more and want to push traditions. 

How do you think the theatre scene has evolved in Asia over the last 5 years?

I think the fact that audiences are coming, and trying, and enjoying new experiences like mine is really positive – we took the risk and set the bar, but more companies will be over here doing more immersive and unique experiences, I’m sure. 

What differences have you noticed in the theatre scene in Asia and Europe?

Right now I’m based in London which is, of course, regarded as the home of theatre, so there is a big difference in what you can see and enjoy, but Asia could be catching up. Our show is definitely a step in the right direction! 

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About Author

Always ready for her next adventure, Gayatri Bhaumik took her first flight at 10 days old and hasn’t looked back since. After long stints in Bangkok, Melbourne and London, she now based in Hong Kong.

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