Game Producer Michelle Hudson talks about her debut online theatre, gaming and performance art show ‘Manimals’

A distinctive part of early 21st century dating, dating apps have shaped how we interact, connect and meet up with prospective partners in the digital era. Tapping into this phenomenon in her debut show ‘Manimals’, game producer Michelle Hudson explores dating, loneliness and the struggle to connect within our digital age. Ahead of the multimedia experience, to take place on Zoom initially in the UK from February and Canada from March, Michelle tells us more about the technical elements of the interactive piece.

Hi Michelle, your debut solo show ‘Manimals’ will embark on a virtual UK and Canadian tour during February and March. How are you feeling ahead of the tour?

I’m feeling so excited. The show’s been in development since April and it’s time to get it in front of an audience! 

Manimals is an exploration of dating, loneliness and the struggle to connect in the digital age. What inspired you to explore these particular themes further?

Manimals is a creative response to my own experience of online dating, which can be a monotonous, soul-sucking thing. I made up a game to bring more play into my own dating life and started going on dates with guys posing with exotic animals in their dating profiles.. and that then became an exploration of the lengths people go to to attract a mate, and the way that apps can support that or hinder it. The show evolved from the game!

How have you collaborated with Game Dramaturg Amy Strike and Director Flo O’Mahony to realise the show?

Amy is a longtime collaborator of mine; we both produced immersive/real world games for the same company, so working with her on a piece of theatre was a dream. She’s been involved in the gaming elements of the show – the game design for the mobile app and the interactive elements for other parts of the show – and also in much of the visual design of the show. 
Flo and I started collaborating over Zoom back in April. After a couple of weeks of solitary working I began meeting up with her once a week, showing her whatever scenes I’d made, and the show evolved through that process. It was a very DIY process to start with, where we were both figuring out what Zoom was able to do as a creative medium. 

Creative Technician Chloe Mashiter and Composer Mark Aspinall have supported with technical aspects of the show, what has the process involved for this?

Chloe’s been instrumental in making sure the show happens! When I started R&D for Manimals my livestreaming learning curve was steep… but there came a point where I needed another, more technical mind to work through the creative technical elements of the piece. Chloe is a digital artist in her own right and had been livestreaming game events for several years, so she was the perfect collaborator. It started off with Chloe giving me a few hours of remote technical support and has evolved into her being an integral member of the team.

Mark is a fantastic composer with a real interest in music in games. He’s taken some of my early song sketches and turned them into amazing, game-ified pieces, and really helped to make the musical elements of the show pop. It’s been a very collaborative process. 

Stitch Media have helped to create the show’s app feature, how have you found collaborating with them?

Stitch took the extremely rough prototype from the early work in progress that I pulled together and have turned it into a fun, visual, and very playable game. They’re a great interactive media studio based in Canada, and the whole process has been seamless. I’ve wanted to work with them for a long time so I’m glad that we’ve finally managed to work together. 

What can viewers expect from the show?

A show that merges interactive theatre with performance art and gaming. It’s playfully filthy, fun, broadly applicable to anyone who’s ever experienced online dating, and deeply personal.  

What do you want for viewers to take away from the show?

Online theatre is groundbreaking and exciting. It’s not just Plan B while theatres are closed. The creative potential for bringing live work directly to an audience in their own homes is huge. I hope audiences see this brand new form as something that is just as creatively thrilling as more traditional theatre. And I’d love for them to see that they’re witnessing a new art form emerging right in front of them.

Questions by Lucy Basaba.

Manimals will play in the UK from Wednesday 10th until Sunday 14th February 2021 via Zoom, tickets are available through the Greenwich Theatre, Poplar Union and The Place (Bedford) websites…

Manimals will play in Canada from Wednesday 5th until Sunday 14th March 2021 via Zoom, tickets are available through the Talk is Free Theatre, Barrie (ON) website…


Written by Theatrefullstop