Applecart Arts: Using Livestreams to Explore Theatre's Limitations


Taken from the back of the stage, floors are carpeted, stage lights beams are splayed out, an actor stands with their back to us in between a saxophonist and a guitarist

Image for Gigi Star - © Will Alder

'Aren’t people bored of screens? Do audiences want to watch live streamed theatre? Surely the point of theatre is that it’s a live and shared experience, best in person, isn't it?'

Applecart Arts' Will Alder discusses their hugely successful streamed projects over the last year and how they have have proven the value of livestreaming to the live arts scene.

These are all questions asked by companies who come to us to chat about live streaming. And yes, they are all good and pertinent questions.

However, we have discovered that there absolutely is an appetite for live streamed theatre.

In March 2020 facing months (a year!) of no live audiences in our space, we discussed how we could continue on in these extraordinary circumstances. And the answer really was to grab things by the horns and say 'this isn’t film, this isn’t TV, this isn’t theatre - this is an amazing amalgamation of all three, let’s play!'

Put simply it's about not struggling with the limitations of this world we’re currently in but celebrating the possibilities that are now open to us. Need to take a chair off stage without the audience seeing? We’ll cut to a close-up! Want to have four versions of the same person on stage at the same time? No problem! Need to make the same person on stage look bigger or smaller depending on the moment in the show? Let’s play with some angles! All of these things and more we have encountered over the last eight months since we started live streaming, and we have found such joy in coming up with innovative and theatrical solutions to each and every one.

The key is to keep in mind that “yes, and...!” mantra from improvisation. As soon as you start to design this theatrical experience for camera, and work with the technology to enhance the experience for not only the audience at home but the creative work that’s taking place in the theatre, there’s a whole new wealth of opportunities that open up to us all as theatre people.

The last year for us all has been such a celebration of the unknown, and one that has placed Applecart evermore prominently on the map as a serious contender for a source of quality theatre. We have worked with outstanding companies of all shapes, sizes and different backgrounds, and told all manner of stories on this newfound platform. The companies that have worked with us on this voyage into the unknown and streamed shows with us have developed their audience reach far beyond normal expectations with so much good feedback - and we now have people on our mailing list from all over the world who previously would have had no interest in what’s on at a small arts centre in Newham. And as the world starts to re-open in 2021, we’re so excited to keep live streaming as a key string to our collective bow - a useful tool in the box that can help theatre and stories reach places we had never previously considered.

Do you have plans to continue your digital programme once theatres reopen? We'd love to hear about your experiences and plans so do get in touch

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