Having “plans” recently has largely consisted of going to Tesco and walking the dog; these are the kinds of things that exhilarate us now. Therefore, having plans to do something different, cultural even, excited me greatly. I even put on some lipstick for my big outing to the living room where my laptop, Zoom open, was ready and waiting for Creation Theatre’s rendition of The Tempest.
As we know (all too well) Zoom is temperamental. How many conversations have you had over these last few weeks that involve a lot of ‘wait, you froze, say again’ ‘or stop moving around so much you’re going all pixel-y’. To attempt to produce theatre on this platform is very brave, as well as on-trend.
The characters have various digital backdrops which helps make the production visually interesting and cleverly clarifies when characters are supposed to be in the same room. One of the reasons the production works so well is because they don’t hide the moments when it doesn’t work so well (due to Zoom issues). It’s very meta in this sense, they don’t try to cover up when Trinculo’s bottle disappears into the green-screen because the camera isn’t picking up his outline properly, or when Caliban forgets to turn his mic back on. It’s all made fun of, making it all the more loveable.
I was initially apprehensive about the idea of audience participation on Zoom, I know how crackly it can be if I’m on a call with just a few people let alone 90 of us, but tonight it’s surprisingly smooth. We create the tempest itself clicking for rain and banging the table and shaking our screens for thunder, it works really well. The actors react to it as if they are being rained on and blown about the screen.
The commitment of the actors is admirable. Particularly considering how ridiculous they must feel, alone in their respective curtained-off rooms without their fellow actors or even a tangible audience. All are great, though Prospero perhaps slightly misses the mark. In order for him to have the highest status he either needs to be benevolent and booming or arrogant and ignoble yet he falls somewhere in between. He holds a microphone which means he could be directed to be quite comically arrogant but this is never built upon.
In this scary time that we are currently living through, the feeling of unity is something of a comfort. I switch to ‘gallery view’ during the banquet scene to see a wonderful array of different consumables being held up by the audience. From a huge watermelon to various alcoholic beverages, of which there are a lot (what else are you going to do in lockdown?) it creates a brilliant, farcical interaction. Then, a fantastic party scene that we happily all join in with—it’s been a while!
Zoe Seaton’s directing is innovative to say the least. Prospero’s Act 4 speech is used to end this production, during which the actors take down their green-screens to reveal their respective living rooms and bedrooms to reflect Prospero’s diminishing magic.
It’s an uncertain time for theatre at the moment and while I hope Zoom theatre isn’t the future it will definitely do for now, when all we want is a bit of escapism and our spirits lifted. Creation Theatre certainly provide this, expanding the possibilities of Zoom in ways I didn’t know possible, leaving us heart-warmed and smiling. Perhaps I’ll use some of their Zoom magic to spice up my next work meeting!
The Tempest is streaming on Zoom until the 25th of April. For more information and tickets, head to Creation Theatre’s website.