Multimedia theatre: a new art form?

Yesterday, The Guardian blog published a delightfully complimentary article by Lyn Gardner on Waves, the show currently playing in The Cottesloe Theatre at The National. As I’ve written previously, our company Fifty Nine worked as video designers for the show, with my colleague Leo Warner working with the director, cast and crew to create something that I thought was extraordinary. Clearly Lyn Gardner agrees:

It is as if Mitchell, her actors and video artist Leo Warner have created an entirely new art form …

We have been focusing on how to effectively integrate new digital technologies (primarily video and projection) into theatre shows for several years now, so it is satisfying when someone echos our thoughts in print:

A split second later you are in yet another person’s head as the multi-stranded, non-linear, non-narrative stream of consciousness unfolds with the fluidity of running water. It feels shockingly intimate and oddly dispassionate, and neither film nor live action alone could come anywhere close to achieving this curious and disconcerting split sensation

The challenge at the outset is to match the message and the medium. We have focused on ideas of non-linearity and streams of consciousness because they can be better expressed using these new technologies.
At Fifty Nine, we are busy finalising an experimental, non-linear online film, Sweet Fanny Adams in Eden, by the playwright Judith Adams. The play was written in HTML, and orginally perfomed promenade style, in the Scottish Plant Collectors Garden in Pitlochry in 2003. The audience and actors wandered around the garden, choosing which scenes to watch. For more on the use of multimedia in theatrical production, I humbly recommend my short essay on the play, written in November 2003. One passage compliments Garnder’s review, above:

.. non-linearity better reflects the human mind, thoughts, history. We are constantly affected by the actions of others, and each thought (indeed, each life) is affected not by one, but several narratives that have gone before. A scene has two meanings, one for each character. A scene may have two meanings, depending on what has preceded it. There is circularity to our lives and our history that is ideally represented by a non-linear medium…

I’ve added a copy of that essay to this blog too – I hope you enjoy reading the whole thing. When the online film is launched, I shall certainly announce it on this site too. In the meantime, please do go and see Waves, and let me know what you thought of it here in the comments!

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