Barbarian Productions & Critical Stages Touring

Conceived by: Jo Randerson and Thomas LaHood

Directed by: Jo Randerson

A wickedly fun immersive in-theatre experience

The stage is set. The ushers are ready. But what happens next?

Grand Opening is a performative tour within a venue, based on either the building’s own unique history or a specific theme (e.g. Cabaret). Through a combination of site visits and research the Barbarian team create a bespoke tour that engages the audience with the venue itself.

The Grand Opening experience is bold and comical: audiences arrive to see the show, but it quickly becomes clear from the ushers (actually professional actors) that something has gone wrong. Before they know it, small groups are whisked off on a whirlwind tour of the building’s back end and forgotten spaces. The journey involves a host of locally sourced volunteers and collaborators – artists, community groups, eccentrics and celebrities – and finishes with the audience themselves presenting live on stage (top secret until the moment the audience arrives).

The central idea of Grand Opening is to demystify the creative process of the performing arts. Grand Opening subverts traditional audience and performer roles, showcases undervalued community performing arts voices, recognises the creativity in us all and gives the public exclusive access to the true grandeur of great performance venues. When we see delighted, surprised faces at the end of the show, we know we have done our job.

Available to Tour



Theatre, Comedy, Music, Special Event, Immersive


All ages. Grand Opening works best with a broad audience demographic.


Negotiable. Example structure is 12 tours per day, for 20-40 minutes, 10–18 people per tour.

Venue Format

Theatre, Civic/Cultural Centre

Performance Seasons

February 2015 – The Opera House, Wellington (CubaDupa Festival)

January 2018 – The Civic Theatre, Auckland (Auckland Live)

March 2019 – Hawke’s Bay Arts & Event Centre

June 2019 – Auckland Live Cabaret Festival

Selling Points and Audience

Key Audiences:

Immersive experience fans: Grand Opening is a unique theatrical experience that puts audiences at the centre of the story, and the stage, in an inviting and inspiring way.

Theatre Lovers: The allure of being able to literally peek behind the curtains of their favourite theatre will be tantalising to regular audiences, and especially to subscribers who haven’t had the chance before.

Festivals: With a limited number of audience members each night Grand Opening is an exciting theatrical product that will be a must-see – if you can get a ticket – and a strong PR story for your festival launch program.

Artists: amateur and professional, at any career level. Local talent are invited to collaborate with us to create an interactive scene or moment somewhere in the building as part of the production.


Marketing Selling Points

  • Quality production (reviews, production history)
  • Uniqueness of experience
  • It’s fun, interactive, light-hearted and adventurous
  • Community collaboration invites creative investment and deeper engagement with audiences.

Grand Opening subverts traditional audience and performer roles, showcases undervalued community performing arts voices and gives the public backstage access to performance venues. Combining Barbarian’s passion for community collaboration with their love of grand-scale theatricality and celebration, this is an immersive event that demystifies the theatres we love, in hilarious, enlightening and radical ways.

What People Are Saying

“It’s been a laugh, a blast, a fabulous experience. And we’re all the wiser for it.” The Hook

“Barbarian are concerned with community, the power of the non-performer and the subversion of the idea that performance is an elite arena in which only ‘professionals’ can take part.” Kate Prior

Community Engagement

“A key component of the work is the involvement of local talent: youth and elderly drama groups, community choirs, school classes, opera singers, visual artists, hairdressers as well as professional performers.

We invite them to collaborate towards creating an interactive scene or immersive moment somewhere in the building. Some iterations of the show have involved a great deal of community performance, welcoming all-comers, and in other versions we have worked with local professionals for a more curated experience.”

Jo Randerson, Director/Creator

Partnering to produce Grand Opening is an invitation to work alongside an experienced and inspiring immersive theatre team, and to leverage our working with communities for the development and connection of local audiences, your venue, and stakeholders.

About Barbarian Productions

Ngā mihi ki a tātou. Barbarian Productions are based in Ponēke, Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington), Aotearoa. Makers of mould-breaking experiences and live performances that bring people together in radically playful ways.

They are considered leaders and pioneers in the field of participatory performance arts projects, revitalising audiences and communities with radically playful interactive works. Their work is participatory at the deepest level. It affects people in real time, in their real lives. In today’s disconnected, disenchanted world their aim is to highlight how theatre can be a powerful agent for progressive change and a renewed sense of belonging.

Barbarian Productions is led by artistic director Jo Randerson and co-director Thomas LaHood. Over 20 years of practice Barbarian has become an icon of resilience in the performing arts.