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September 2020

October 2020

Digital theatre review: All By Myself - a surface look at self identity in the digital age

A woman is in her dark flat, hunched over two potatoes, some nails and copper wire trying to make a battery. Her phone is running out of juice, there is a power cut and you have to admire her ingenuity.

All By Myself screen shot

It's not the first thing I'd think about if the power went off but then I don't have a popular YouTube channel and social media accounts that need regular feeding.

The play, a production by Part of the Main theatre company for Applecart Arts, is live streaming as part of the Dazed New World festival and explores identity during the Covid crisis when your only connection to the outside world is via the internet.

We see our YouTuber - played by Charlie Blandford - pouting, preening and oozing confidence for the camera while talking about self-care during lockdown.

Although we also see behind the scenes and how the best shots are carefully edited together to create the illusion of perfection and camera poise.

When the camera stops rolling and there is no self-editing she is human - flawed, frustrated, bored, lonely and desperate for that connection.

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Trying to find my theatre-going mojo again

Going from seeing two or more plays a week to nothing was a huge shock. In those early days, I devoured whatever was on offer online, whatever was free, some paid stuff and I took free trials on some of the streaming services to see what they had.

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Photo by Claire P on Unsplash

But the longer lockdown went on I started looking elsewhere for different diversions. I didn't want to watch serious stuff or anything worthy I wanted escapism - popcorn movies on Netflix, fantasy, sci-fi, frothy teen dramas - anything that was far removed from reality.

My creative energy was being used up keeping my freelance business going which is what pays the bills - and pays for theatre.

Work didn't completely dry up but for a while it wasn't covering my living costs. Sorting that out had to be my main focus and it was as much adulting as I could muster.

So I found myself watching less and less theatre, cherry-picking bits and bobs.  I wrote less here on the blog, recording my weekly theatre questions videos was as much as I could manage most weeks. 

My theatre mojo was a pilot light rather than at full burn.

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Sunday theatre question: Will your theatre-watching habits change post-Covid?

Theatres are starting to open again but a return to normality is a long way off. Some theatres have turned to the internet to show old and new work, have you embraced digital theatre during the lockdown?

And will your habits change for the longer term?

I've been impressed by the creativity of theatres in producing work during the Covid crisis. Although it's been the smaller theatre production companies who have really embraced the opportunity with innovative and imaginative work that has made the most of the technology available.

In a recent interview director Katie Mitchell talked about how theatres makers will need to embrace this new landscape, mixing mediums and platforms like they have never done before.

It is a harsh reality that social distancing is going to be here for quite some time. And once this pandemic has been brought under control that doesn't mean there won't be another one.

Lesson's need to be taken from this. Theatres need to find ways of building resilience, embrace the challenge and creative channels on offer.

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Sunday theatre question: Have you seen a production design fail?

This week's Sunday theatre question is about when the production design of a play doesn't quite work. It perhaps distracts or gets in the way of the play or maybe makes performing unnecessarily challenging for the actors.

I've got a couple of examples that stick in my mind, one was a Shakespeare play at the Young Vic and the other was a classic Greek tragedy at the Donmar.

Both are memorable for the production fails rather than the performances or interpretation of classics.

Have you had a similar experience? Let me know in the comments.

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