The art of storytelling is about as old as the human race, and ghost stories always have and always will prove popular. Digital-mapping experts Share Space & Light have cleverly tapped into this innate love of storytelling with Talking Posts at Brighton Digital Festival.
In front of The Old Market theatre in Hove are two large street lamps that wouldn’t look out of place in Narnia. The hovering heads inside them, however, may not fit in with the talking woodland creatures. When I join the crowd gathered around the street lamps I am curious, wondering how the traditional ghost story will translate to the digital medium. It turns out it translates just fine.
Any sceptics of the integration of new technologies with older art forms like theatre should see this piece of storytelling; it may well change their minds. Each hovering head – a digital incarnation of a professional storyteller – tells its own spooky tale of murders, hauntings and séances in the Brighton area for about five minutes a time. Once you get over the oddity of a face staring at you from inside a street lamp, the tales are utterly captivating and rather chilling.
What’s great about Talking Posts is that the technology doesn’t get in the way of the stories at all. The images are crisp and the sound quality fantastic. I defy anyone to not get a thrill when standing in a darkened street hearing one particular tales’ ghostly footsteps echo from one street lamp to the next. As strange as the gathering may have seemed at first I quickly got used to standing with a group of strangers, listening to some stories told digitally and I wondered if this sort of thing would one day become a commonplace way of getting entertainment. A city with story-telling street lamps on every corner might not be such a bad thing.
Another event at The Old Market that demonstrated exceptional use of new technologies was a retrospective of Billy Cowie’s 3D screen dance films. Wearing special glasses that had something to do with depth perception the audience was treated to a series of short movement pieces performed by female dancers. When the first dancer appeared, delicately reaching out to the audience from a plinth seemingly in the middle of the stage I had to take off my glasses to confirm she wasn’t actually on stage.
The images had such depth, and appeared so life-like in front of the drawn backgrounds behind them. They appeared somehow more than real; it’s a hyper-real theatre experience and I would love to see more of this technology at work. I would be especially excited to see the projected dancers interacting with real on-stage performers, something I am told Cowie does in other works.
This showing to a small invited audience was a taster of a larger retrospective that will hopefully be at The Old Market next year. I very much hope this happens.
Both Talking Posts and the Billy Cowie retrospective demonstrate how captivating new technology with traditional performance styles can be. It’s a continuum of these styles, not technology bulldozing over them, and I am very interested to see how this develops.
Talking Posts is free to attend and runs outside the front of The Old Market in Hove until 22 September. For more information see the Old Market website.