Theatre shows using digital media at Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2011
Incorporating Skype and mobile apps into theatre shows
This article is from 2011.
Sometimes it feels like we live in an episode of Tomorrow’s World. We have tablet computers and countless varieties of smart phones; the big wigs ponder whether to dole out Academy Awards for films about game-changing websites which didn’t even exist decade prior to this and we get oddly excited about Google+ and changes to Facebook Chat.
It is fitting, then, that technology and new media are prevalent themes at this year’s Fringe. You Wouldn’t Know Him, He Lives in Texas, for instance, is a forward-thinking play by Look Left Look Right productions, following a couple conducting a long-term, long-distance relationship via Skype.
Artistic Director Mimi Poskitt explains the premise: ‘The show is not only about making work that uses new media in new ways but also about relationships between people. It really touches on a lot of the work that is happening in the transmedia world.’
Poskitt, a previous Fringe First winner, works in partnership with Beth Burns at the Hidden Room theatre company in Texas to produce a show of two halves conducted across Skype. On the US side of the screen, audiences will experience the play from Ryan’s point of view, watching him chat to his girlfriend, Elizabeth, who lives in Edinburgh, and Fringe attendees will see things from Elizabeth’s point of view.
Once people get a ticket for the show, they are sent an email from the character of Elizabeth, as if they are a friend she has invited round to ‘meet’ Ryan over Skype, and also receive a Facebook friend invitation. The team also stream the show to a third venue – the online community – inviting people to use Twitter to communicate with the actors via a live feed.
Poskitt and Burns are pleased with how rehearsals have gone so far (all, of course, conducted over Skype) and are confident that the play(s) will be as successful in Edinburgh as when they were staged in London/Texas earlier this year.
‘The response has been amazing. There is scope for reaching a wider audience online than you ever could live,’ says Poskitt, arguing that You Wouldn’t Know Him/Her is about as interactive as theatre can get.
‘We did a panel at SXSW this year about how we can use new media to connect to audiences and other theatre groups and how you can use technology to deliver live theatre right into someone’s house.’
Closer to home, we have (g)Host City, a mini-festival of downloadable, site-specific performances by artists, writers and performers such as Momus, Alan Bissett, Jim Colquhoun, Ewan Morrison, Christopher Collier and Hannah McGill.
Laura Cameron Lewis, the mastermind behind this artistic exploration of Edinburgh describes the event as ‘a collection of artists’ responses to the city over time. The brief was to submit a proposal concerning a place in Edinburgh, particularly the New Town. It could be sculpture, theatre, audio or something which could happen at a particular time or place.’
Each artist’s performance is available online and can be experienced at any time convenient to you, the audience. Lewis describes the idea as ‘pervasive performance’ – the blurring or breaking of boundaries between participants and the audience, creating a ‘mixed reality’ where the performance can extend into people’s homes.
‘You can either find the performances by searching under the artist’s name and choosing to go to the particular place where the art was done, or experiencing it online at another time completely.
‘With an app on a Blackberry or iPhone, you can also find events that are close to you. When I first came up with the idea, it seemed too techy or too geeky but since then, this kind of technology has become much more widely available and not so expensive.’
Having worked in traditional theatre for over ten years, Lewis felt confident that (g)Host City was a logical next step for her ambitions.
‘If you’re interested in how people tell stories and how they experience each other and the many ways in which we connect in the world, then it absolutely makes sense to produce work which is about new technologies and critiques that,’ she says. ‘What is really exciting for me about making work in that media is that there is no common practice, no rulebook. No one has set out how it should be done.’
You Wouldn’t Know Him, He Lives in Texas, meet at Underbelly Cowgate box office 15 minutes before show time, 0844 545 8252, Aug 6 & 7, 13 & 14, 20 & 21, 27 & 28, 6pm & 8pm, £15 (£12.50)
(g)Host City is available online at virtualfestival.org, 1 Aug–4 Sep, £2 (non-ticketed).