More and more these days, we are having firsts online – meetings, birthday parties, nights out, all beamed directly into our home. So, without really thinking about it, I signed up to my first online ‘theatre trip’ on a gloomy Saturday, 4 weeks into lockdown. My thinking - “Well… I won’t be doing anything else!”
It's true to form that the Creation Theatre should be responsible for my taking the plunge into online theatre – being the company who put on The Comedy of Errors in a car factory car park (BMW Mirror Tent) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream ‘across West Oxford’. I suppose it was inevitable that they should see social distancing as an opportunity rather than a barrier.
The show is billed as ‘immersive’ and ‘interactive’ - I felt a vague sense of guilt that I might be encouraging the actors to break the government’s ‘stay at home’ mandate by going out in the community to bring us Shakespeare’s tale of islands and shipwrecks. In fact - similar to the innovations brought about from within the limitations of the theatre in Shakespeare’s time – they created a sense of magic and mystery without leaving their own homes. It is a testament to the creativity of the Creation crew that me and my 8 year old daughter sat captivated for nearly 1.5 hours.
Everything from storms to shipwrecks, bird attacks to a wedding was created using relatively low-tech effects - the best and most important effect being audience participation. As with other online meet-ups, we could not only see, but also participate in, the show. What could have been clumsy - full of gaffes and feedback - was pulled off with aplomb to engage and entertain us. There was an initial sense of voyeurism in scrolling through the screens to see who else was watching - much as you look around an audience in a real-life auditorium. I’m sure we weren’t the only ones who felt a bit bashful at being seen ‘in our own homes’ at first.
However, soon enough, when we got our chance to steal the limelight by ‘helping’ Ariel with various tasks, we happily ‘took to the stage’ i.e. were briefly shown to all viewers. For the seriously shy there are plenty of options, such as turning your camera off or just not joining in on the action - only those joining in were shown. But I felt a lot of innocent pleasure just watching the other audience members (including pets) join in the fun.
At £20 for two people (£30 for more than two) I thought it was a well-priced, enjoyable and wholly original experience – easily as much fun as going to the theatre, if not more. Well done to Creation for pushing the boundaries and spreading innocent pleasure in strange times.
The last word is from my daughter - her one word review - “Amazing” (Amelie, 8 years old).