The video game you’ve created for asses.masses features donkeys. Why ?

Patrick Blenkarn: The show is about the parallel between a herd of virtual asses who are going on an adventure and that of a mass of people in a theatre. Historically, there’s a persistent, and quite pejorative, mythology surrounding donkeys that depicts them as be stupid, stubborn beasts who are only good for manual labour. But donkeys are actually highly intelligent and sensitive. A lot of people have compared manual labourers to donkeys in the past, and today, you could make connections between them in various ways, especially since they have both disappeared or are disappearing from representations of contemporary life. They seem to belong to the past and have been replaced by technology.

Milton Lim : What’s happening to the donkeys on the screen, as they’re wondering how to function as a group, is replicated by audience members in the room, who are facing the same questions. Who is going to take the controller? Who is going to complete the next level? Who will be the leader? How can we agree when different members of our group have different opinions? With the help of the donkeys, we wanted to facilitate a space where people confront each other and our values, thereby creating a rich space for asking questions about the community, both in the context of the game and the theatrical container.


It’s been said that asses.masses asks the audience to discover the space between the work that defines us and the play that frees us. What exactly do you mean by that?

PB : When we started creating the game, we were thinking a lot about the ways in which many of us work all day, often seated at a computer, then come home in the evening to relax, and maybe play a video game on a computer and in which you have to do more labour—to go on quests, chop wood, harvest virtual fields, etc. What’s the difference between these forms of labour? Is it about what you call it? The goal ? We don’t have an answer, but it seems clear that the border between work and play is becoming more and more blurry.

ML : In the late 20th century, many of us were raised with the idea that you can do what you love as your job. Today, both work and play are becoming more and more gamified. In light of this, how does work restrict us and how does play liberate us? And don’t some types of games restrict us, while other work sometimes gives us access to other kinds of freedom?


The duration of asses.masses varies, but it typically lasts more than seven hours. Why is that important?

ML : At the start, we didn’t realize it would last as long as a full working day. That might seem long, but many of us have experience binge-watching a new TV series in one night, which could take even longer… One thing’s for sure, the duration makes something special happen in the theatre: after a while, the audience stops treating the show as a theatrical performance and more like a shared moment on a couch in their basement. Nothing replaces time for building bonds: how people socialize is transformed and they become a community.

PB : In today’s world, so much of our time is taken up with technological interruptions. We wanted to use technology to create time and bind people. Some people believe that technology is being used ill-advisedly, but we’d like to propose that theatre is also not being used in the right way. People tell us that theatre is a place where you come together as a people and ask fundamental, transformative questions, but more often than not we sit in silence and leave without really meeting the people sitting beside us. In truth, there are other contexts where gathering is taking place, and maybe by welcoming those other understandings in, theatre can rediscover its essence.
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