I once did a performance piece called 'Transit Camp' for, and sponsored by, the Big West Festival. It was on a deserted piece of land next to a park adjacent the Maribyrnong (however you spell that) River. The piece went for 9 days and we did 2 performances a day, and spent weeks setting it up, performing, 6hrs on site every day. It was a makeshift refugee camp that could have been anywhere, and there were about 25-30 inhabitants, a dozen or so tents, and over 50 graves we built (in scorching sun). The amount of graves seemed quite overwhelming compared to the number of living souls in the camp. The whole thing covered maybe 3-4 acres.
It was designed to have a real effect on people and often did. First the audience group were allowed to roam the camp and interact with the inhabitants. I was a sick woman who had been left to die in a pathetically equipped First Aid tent. I was instructed not to interact much with crowd, and many people became quite distressed trying to give me water and help; as though the line between reality and theatre had blurred.
The crowd then wandered through the graveyard (they were gently led there in ways that did not seem obvious), and were then collected by a real estate agent character and female assistant who took them to the serene scene of a beautiful green lawn with a massive tree strung with white foam houses; whereby it became apparent they were really part of a tour of a new housing estate. Given brochures 'picture your life here,' etc. Invited up onto a giant raised walkway with picture frames framing the views of the river, and given the 'hard sell.' Many of the audience wanted to return to the camp, and were quite upset by the juxtaposition. As they were directed back to the carpark while the RE agent spoke to his assistant of hurrying them so the next tour could start, we'd all crept out from the tent and our places in the camp for a funeral procession to the graveyard. The carpark overlooked the graveyard, and the crowd stood transfixed as a bell tolled and we all stood looking bereft around a grave (I played a second character here, and had speedily changed into new costume while the crowd had their RE tour). Eventually we all melted back into the camp, and the audience disappeared into their cars.
It was extremely well written and designed, and had a major effect upon me as well as the community. It got rave reviews but not huge audiences. All the tents, supplies and props were donated to the AS resource centre afterwards, I seem to remember. It was an amazing piece of theatre, something I'll never forget.