Last night I, and a few of my Substrakt pals, watched the ‘live’ broadcast of the Bridge Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which is available to watch, until the 2nd of July).
This was the first time I’d tuned in for one of the ‘live’ broadcasts. With other recordings they’ve put out I’ve usually caught up after the initial premiere.
And I was surprised, and moved, by just how communal and live it felt.
At points I was quadruple screening (with an eye on Twitter comments, the live chat on YouTube and the Substrakt Slack channel which had a steady stream of conversation about the show, as well as watching the play).
I’m sure there are many people who will roll their eyes at this.
And indeed over recent months I’ve read, and heard directly, from leaders in the cultural sector who feel that this sort of experience is a ‘pale imitation’ of ‘the real thing’.
Which, in my opinion, couldn’t be more wrong.
There was a lot of nonsense in the live chat on YouTube, as there often is, but there were also lovely examples of people helping to explain to Shakespeare first-timers (or for people who didn’t speak English as their first language) what was happening and why certain choices in the production had been made.
A similar type and tone of conversation formed on Twitter around the #BridgeDream hashtag, which also included the (now regular) sight of the inimitable Lyn Gardener live tweeting her commentary alongside the broadcast
— lyngardner (@lyngardner) June 25, 2020
As I watched all of this unfurl around me I thought about a conversation I had with Dr Kirsty Sedgman for the Digital Works podcast (which will be released soon) where she talked about ‘different types of live-ness’.
We discussed the need to move away from dogmatically clinging to the ‘in-person, in-venue’ experience as the ‘purest’ form, of which everything else is just an echo.
The complex, multi-layered ‘live-ness’ that I witnessed, and was a part of, last night was as enthralling, as joyous, and as meaningful as any experience I’ve had in a theatre.
Watching #bridgedream simultaneously with parents – them in Somerset, me in London – with joyous memories of seeing it live @_bridgetheatre with mum last year 🥰 Thanks for making it possible @NationalTheatre! pic.twitter.com/b4KegEXuAj
— Tash (@CharisPayne) June 25, 2020
Even though we were watching a recording of a play that happened a year ago we were enjoying a shared experience which spanned the globe (I saw comments in the chat from people tuning in from the Philippines, USA, India, French Guiana, and Croatia).
Surely that is something to embrace enthusiastically.