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The Crash of the Elysium takes children on a spectacular theatrical adventure

  • Date: 5 August 2013
  • Artform: Theatre
  • Area: South East
The Crash of Elysium The Crash of Elysium, Mike Kwasniak

The Crash of the Elysium, an immersive theatre show for children and families, was performed for three weeks in summer 2012 as part of Ip-art, the Ipswich Arts Festival, and as a leading event of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad Festival. Grants for the arts funding was combined with other sources to adapt and develop the original production for performances in Ipswich.


The original production of The Crash of the Elysium was created for children aged 7 and up and their families, by award-winning theatre company Punchdrunk and the Doctor Who team at BBC Wales, and premiered in Salford in 2011.

Conceived as an innovative and spectacular piece of theatre where the audience become the stars of the show, attendees were initially admitted to an exhibition, then taken by a team of soldiers dressed in quarantine suits and given instructions from Doctor Who to enter a spaceship and save the world.

Attracting new audiences and achieving sales targets

Greg Cooper, Cultural Development Manager at Ipswich Borough Council, admits that meeting their high targets for ticket sales with a single production was a major challenge. But the fact that the production had already been successful at the Manchester International Festival meant that they could draw on that experience, which Greg says was "extremely helpful and helped shape the marketing strategy".

In addition, marketing campaigns such as bus advertising and taking the 'Tardis' (their advertising prop) to key regional venues – such as Liverpool Street Station, Kings College Cambridge and Ipswich Town Football Club – helped drive local media interest.

Excellent coverage in the national press (such as Lyn Gardner's Guardian review) also helped, as did their social media campaign, which provided a critical link to new audiences. Volunteer support also proved invaluable, with two volunteers acting as scientists in the performance and one volunteer gaining experience of filming/editing with a local marketing agency.

School performances (for ages 8-12) did not sell as well as anticipated, due in part to a conflict with pre-programmed summer activity. However, additional resources allocated throughout the project and changing the schools' performance schedule in the final week to open more 'after dark' performances (for ages 13+) worked well, as a significant increase in ticket sales for these shows was achieved. Overall, the show achieved target ticket sales of 8,856.

Ipswich as a cultural destination

The show was a huge success, and met its aspirations of celebrating the opening of the London 2012 Festival with an innovative, high quality piece of children’s theatre, which Cooper says "is capable of changing perceptions of the possibilities of children’s theatre."

The Crash of Elysium also succeeded in developing new audiences, both regionally and nationally, with the show reaching almost 9,000 audience members. Cooper says the show "increased the number of people attending and participating in the arts – especially our children and young people – via a complimentary education programme in partnership with local stakeholders that has developed participatory and sustainable relationships."

By staging the show in Ipswich, The Crash of Elysium helped establish Ipswich as a cultural destination of national significance and helped boost the cultural economy by increasing tourism, developing skills and education and improving employment opportunities. Cooper says, "There was a real feeling of the people of Ipswich being proud that the show came here as part of the Cultural Olympiad programme."

Find out more about National Lottery funded arts projects.