Good performance is all about doing it well and doing something a bit different. ASMR Happens was quite a different and genuinely unpredictable experience. There have been live ASMR shows before from Emma AKA ‘WhispersRed’ and of course the many YouTube videos but did the ASMR experience work as well live as it does in the privacy of many of the users’ homes?
The issue with ASMR is that everyone has their niche and to use a crude sexual term; their fetish. The audience is greeted by a room that feels more like ASMR convention than a live show. There are water beads, feathers and coffee beans with the opportunity to get a massage from an ASMR beautician. For anyone unfamiliar with ASMR, it isn’t just about sound, it is about the feelings (“tingles”) you get from certain sounds and situations. It is far more sensory than your standard theatre experience.
Ultimately it is about the sound, the audience is given wireless headphones and suddenly it feels more like the YouTube videos the audience are familiar with. Emma appears on a big screen to introduce the show and concept then comes out on stage. She plays some crystal singing bowls (used for Sound Therapy) and then introduces a story written by Katie Sone from Right Mind. The projections for this were beautifully done but it felt very different from the roleplays and ramblings the audience are used to from Emma and this part of the short running time (Around 45-60 minutes) dominated. Emma finished with hair brushing, one of the most common triggers for ASMR, using the ‘head microphone’ from The Encounter.
This was a very experimental show and whilst it was great to meet other members of the ASMR community at £20 a ticket I didn’t feel I was getting good value. There was clearly a lot of expense and the sound technicians should be applauded for no technical issues but in a world where the audience can get the experience for free and “tailored” to their tastes in the form of the choice of YouTube videos, it needed more variation to meet the needs of each audience member. You also don’t get some terrifying audience coughing that sounds like a dog barking in your ear.
I wish the concept all the best as technically it was extraordinary from Pete Wallace AKA Butch Auntie and Emma, despite her own admittance of nerves, gave an engaging performance but they will need to come up with new, lengthy experiences to keep even the most avid ASMR fan coming back.
ASMR Happens Live 2017 was performed by Whispers Red on 29 April at The Courtyard in London