It is more than a sad coincidence that the headline of our current blog article refers to the work of a man who has passed away these days. Terry Jones, co-founder, author, actor and feature film director of Monty Python is said to have written the line "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition" for the sketch of the same name for Monty Python's Flying Circus - and has provided us with a long ball in more than one way. This January he died at the age of 77.
Hardly anything seems to be further apart than the classic rules of event dramaturgy and the work of Monty Python. If the first priority of narrative event design is to get from the beginning to the end as smoothly and audiencefriendly as possible, pythons-scenes are characterized by narrative disruption, irritating ideas and bizarre twists and turns. It is only logical that events are usually not based on concepts such as the Flying Circus, after all, it is all about convincing spectators of something and the venerable principle still is to never upset or even disturb your audience. So far, so logical, so classic.
Yet within the last few years a tendency in event marketing seems to emerge that aims to experiment with those classical set ups and develop formats that try to open and even break up the formats of mainstream-event design. Therefore it does not seem so absurd - despite all the obvious differences - to suspect one or the other simularity in Monty Python's work and contemporary event and live marketing – especialy when the latters wants to give themselves edgy. Be it guerrilla marketing or disruptive campaigns, mind game movies or storytelling with the famous twist that lets everything told so far appear in a completely new light: it is now en vogue to challenge your audience. Above all, playing with different levels of meaning in a story, which ultimately reveals that everything is actually quite different, can create exciting experiences and really captivate an audience. Of course, this highlights this one completely unexpected twist, as it should ensure that the story is experienced as something very special. As a matter of fact, that's exactly where the problems begin.
The right leg isn’t silly at all
The more original the twist, the higher the entertainment value; the more absurd the turn, the greater the impact on the audience - one can get the impression that those who want to be particularly modern and edgy rely heavily on this logic and pay a lot of creative attention to the moment when they tell their audience: you are wrong about everything you have believed so far. Even when you're willing to challenge your viewers – actually something you should always be interested in when conceiving an experience - it's still an extremely fine line between surprising and belittling your audience. A unexpetced twist in the story is not an end unto itself - the more artistic, unexpected and spectacular a turn to an event is stylized in an experience, the more it overshadows the actual content of the story. You tell the audience how original you are instead of convincing them of your story by making them care more about your ability to twist than to tell.
An experience is exciting when it opens up a world that you do not know yet and it is in the nature of things to surprise and confront your audience with something unknown. To do this, you have to have your audience on board at all times so that they can follow you into unknown waters. Above all, this means that every twist is only as good as its previous planting within the story - a bizarre twist works if, despite all the irritation, it is plausible in one way or another in the world told. Therefore, the most challenging thing about it is not the creation of spectacular twists, but the continuous anchoring of the narrative logic behind the twist - from the very first moment of story and experience. One can certainly learn from Monty Python how to tell disruptively. But if you also pay attention to how to embed the whole thing in an albeit bizarre but coherent world from the start, you will be able to gain much greater value from the work of the British for your own experiences. Because only those who dimension the boat of their story adequately right from the start will also be able to offer their audience a narrative place on the whole trip, where they are willing to go through any unexpected turbulence – and enjoy them.
JAWS does not offer an unexpected turn - on the contrary: the film is a prime example of linear storytelling. Nevertheless, it manages to portray a completely implausible scenario (a fish terrifies an entire city) as the most credible thing in the world and is thus a lesson on the power of narrative architecture. For this as well as for the mission of the Roy Scheider character applies the same rule: the better you prepare at your starting point, the better you - and and the story - will get through.
(c) FAD - FIRMA für den ABLAUF von DINGEN GmbH 2020