In 2023, the cultural treasury of Bishkek received a new addition: the immersive audio performance ‘Connections’.

This theatrical project follows a site-specific ‘promenade performance’ format, combining an audio guide to the city’s landmarks with an emotionally charged artistic performance.

During this excursion performance, the audience does not sit in armchairs but instead become the main characters and actively participate in the action. Following the audio guide, they are constantly on the move and led through secret paths in the centre of Bishkek. Along the way, they are presented with opportunities to engage with the city and each other.
Although the immersive audio performance format is not new, this experience offers a unique and exciting way to explore the city. Audio plays are a great alternative to traditional tours, which can often be dull and fact-heavy. They allow tourists to uncover the secrets behind the facades of houses and museums, revealing fascinating stories. The main function of this format is to promote the brand of the territory by creating a romanticised image of the city. This image is what tourists fall in love with and then enthusiastically share with their friends, acquaintances, and social media followers. Such recommendations organically increase the region’s tourist attractiveness.

However, the sociocultural project ‘Connections’ not only included a lyrical component in the guide for first-time tourists in Bishkek, but also aimed to support the cultural integration of newcomers into the vibrant life of the Kyrgyzstan capital. Unlike many projects that reveal the history of key places in the city through a literary monologue or character interaction, ‘Connections’ focuses on fostering a deeper understanding of the city’s culture.

The main character, Baha (Bakyt), builds friendly relationships with the city’s guests and reveals the boundaries of the upper, middle, and lower worlds. Viewers discover Bishkek through the personal stories of its residents and learn important subtleties of how to become a local in the city. “Connections” is based on stories from contemporaries about the past, personal stories and little-known facts that create an indescribable atmosphere of mystery and intrigue, captivating the reader from the very beginning and not letting go until the last step. Therefore, “Connections” makes the city an attractive tourist destination not only for external visitors but also for residents of Bishkek.

According to the project’s creators, Vyacheslav Koshelev and Sergey Makarov, the project’s history is interesting and fraught with difficulties. Despite these challenges, the project was successfully launched and well-received by the public. However, due to the format’s relative inaccessibility and the discomfort of walks lasting over two hours in winter, the project’s ‘theatre season’ is limited to March through November. However, the main challenge was the urban environment.

The project aims to showcase not only the tourist attractions of Bishkek but also the daily life of its residents. Therefore, the route was designed to pass through authentic courtyards. Negotiating with local residents was necessary to ensure that tourists have unobstructed passage through the city. This can be a challenging task in a constantly developing metropolis.

Additionally, it is important to consider the accessibility of the urban environment for people with disabilities, pregnant women, and the elderly. Unfortunately, some areas of Bishkek’s urban environment are not yet accessible, and this issue has yet to be resolved by ‘Connections’.

Currently, ‘Connections’ is preparing for the opening of the 2024 season with an immersive audio performance, which offers prospects for new partnerships. Negotiations are underway to create similar performances in Karakol and Osh, as well as in Uzbekistan.