Creation Theatre this month invited audiences to watch an interactive, virtual version of Shakespeare’s The Tempest – from the safety of their sofa. Creation’s chief executive Lucy Askew talks to Rev Stan about the challenges of making theatre in isolation for people in isolation and how it will change theatre in the future.
Necessity breeds invention. How did the idea for an interactive, virtual production of The Tempest come about?
We felt really strongly that, despite the restrictions we all currently face, we had a responsibility to continue to entertain and that we needed to find ways it would still be live and responsive to an audience.
We didn’t want isolation to mean we’d lose what is different and special about the live experience, chatting to Zoe Seaton at Big Telly [Theatre Company] it was clear they were thinking similar thoughts.
Last year we made The Tempest so adapting that and embracing the new opportunities online mediums offer felt like a good place to start.
How does it work?
The audience is invited to a Zoom call. They then see the story of The Tempest unfold, the show has been virtually designed by our costume designer Ryan Dawson Laight with virtual backgrounds and carefully curated costumes put together from what can be accessed by our cast in isolation.
It’s highly visual, inventive and really creative in the way it embraces the limitations of the medium, it really showcases how proper stagecraft can be achieved even within the confines of a small screen.
There’s audience interaction but delivered in a way even the shyest person will be comfortable with it.
What has been the most challenging part of putting on this production together?
There are loads of technical challenges getting to grips with this new medium, but really the biggest challenge is just the gut-punching moments when it hits you that we are all in isolation and how much we all long to be in a room together again.
Do you think the response by theatre-makers during lockdown will change the way theatre is produced in the longer term?
Yes, in such a wonderful and positive way. We’re realising how well we can work remotely and that we never need to travel to productions meetings again.
It’s forced our hand to take steps that really expose that we could have done more to reduce our impact on the environment in the past and that we can make some really big changes going forward.
It also shows how stimulating and exciting creating digital work is and how that can increase audience reach and access.
Will you be doing more virtual, interactive theatre?
Yes, it’s proving to be such an exciting medium to work, it’s embarrassing really we hadn’t embraced it more fully earlier.
We’re really not seeing the current crisis as a temporary state to endure but the catalyst we needed to move into an exciting new phase.
Have you watched any streamed theatre or do you have anything on your watch list?
Yes, it’s great having an opportunity to see so much work without having to arrange a babysitter.
I’m particularly excited to see the NT Jane Eyre again this week. The Creation team went to the understudy run and had to stand in the foyer in a circle discussing it for 10 minutes afterwards we loved it so much.
You can watch The Tempest on Sat 11 April – Mon 13 April at 3 pm and 7.30 pm and here’s a little preview piece I wrote about it.
Running Time: 1 hr and tickets are £20 for up to two people or £30 for two or more.
Box Office 01865 766266 or online at www.creationtheatre.co.uk
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Want more theatre to watch while on coronavirus lockdown? Here is my updated list.
From the archive: Remember when Michael Grandage was artistic director at the Donmar Warehouse? Here’s an interview he gave as part of the National Theatre’s Platform series.
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