By Charles Tyrer
Digital Theatre and live streamed performances are the zeitgeist within contemporary theatre. Undoubtedly it is a child of our time, a new and vibrant format that for the first time opens up live theatre to ever wider audiences irrespective of their location. The obvious down side is that if audiences have the opportunity to see shows without having to actually go to the theatre, this could seriously affect numbers of ‘live’ theatre goers, with subsequent effects on financial and (from the actors perspective) performance viability. The primary concern among industry professionals appears to be that Digital Theatre cannot emulate live performance. Whatever the general consensus may be, Digital Theatre and live streamed performances are becoming increasingly popular.
In their manifesto, The National Theatre of Scotland outline their desire to tour internationally, to bring drama in all its forms to schools and communities and to work with designers, playwrights, directors and numerous other artists to develop the pool of talent in Scotland. The Company has no venue, therefore one understands the thought process they had last year when conjuring up ‘5 Minute Theatre’ as it allowed them to fulfil many of their objectives without the constraints of their own venue becoming critical.
The event lasted 24 hours, and took place on what the Company like to call their ‘virtual stage.’ It consisted of 207 back-to-back five minute live streamed performances, which were watched by 6,300 unique viewers in 51 different countries, who visited the site 22,000 times. The pieces are still available to watch online, and since being posted, have gained a further 33,000 viewings. This creates a virtual audience of 55,000 to date.
Following the accomplishment of last year’s inaugural ‘Five Minute Theatre’ the format has been improved. There are to be five shorter digital and interactive bursts this year, with the first live streaming set to take place on the 1st of May. The theme is ‘protest’ and theatre makers can focus on the personal, private protests or global and political protests. Alongside offering the opportunity to be seen by thousands, the national theatre’s website also offers theatre makers classes and advice on how to make and deliver a piece of theatre. The essence of this project is certainly encouraging to professionals and amateurs alike. Whether you want to apply to take part, view shows, or simply keep up to date with their plans, then go to www.fiveminuitetheatre.com
Whilst it is arguable whether the essence of live performance can be captured remotely on a screen, it would seem live streaming and Digital Theatre’s benefits outweigh the negatives. Scotland’s National Theatre has proven this. For the first time in the history of Theatre, a production has a potentially unlimited worldwide audience. The future for Theatre is one without boundaries and whatever your view on the digital advancement, conjecturing as to how it will change the face of Theatre as we know it, is both intriguing and exciting.