The ‘liveness’ of theatre performances is often presented as central to its definition, particularly when making contrasts with non-live performances on film or television. Yet there is little empirical research exploring whether there is a distinct character to the experience of theatre that is determined by its live performance. Addressing this need, this is the first of two linked papers presenting research resulting from an Arts and Humanities Research Council funded investigation into ‘Young Audiences and Live Theatre’. In this first paper the methodological narrative behind the project is examined, concentrating on the importance of process and approach in determining the kinds of knowledge that can result from audience research. The paper explores how a participative ethos and memory-based workshop exercises were employed to engage the young audience members as active researchers into their own experiences and thereby begin to reach their own understandings of the liveness of theatre performances.