How European Theatre Is Successfully Blending Technology With Theatre

Posted on 13 July, 2016 by Team Wishberry

In the not too distant past, theatre companies across Europe faced a dilemma. It was this: in an age where attention spans are steadily decreasing, how does one keep theatre alive and interesting for the audience, especially the youth? The answer, they found, was in the problem itself. Instead of seeing the digital age as a roadblock, they adapted to social media to build a presence and engage with audiences online. Because, what are you going to do with your audience and fans during the time you’re not performing?

We realized, Indian theatre needs a similar momentum. Theatre groups need to constantly be in touch with their fans. So, we picked five of the most innovative and most successful ideas of audience engagement employed by groups abroad, to get you thinking.

National Theatre, London: NT Live

The National Theatre, London, is one of the most prominent theatre groups, not only in the UK, but across the world. Although they have perhaps one of the most enviable repertoire of works, one of the most amazing things they  have done is NTLive (National Theatre Live), a programme under which they screen, and even live stream, their productions for the world. The company has tied up with organisations across the world to screen their plays. Plays are also screened on the NTLive website. At a little cost, one can experience London theatre’s finest from anywhere in the world.

Here is a trailer of Benedict Cumberbatch starrer Hamlet, which is currently being screened all over the world including our very own NCPA in Mumbai.

Katona Joszef Theatre, Hungary: Giformances

A theatre actor is but a canvas of emotions. And it is this efficient portrayal of emotions that makes theatre so exciting. The Katona Joszef Theatre in Hungary made use of this talent in an extremely innovative way to attract younger audiences. They introduced Giformances, which are basically short performances of various emotions and reactions through the currently popular GIFs. The company asked people what reactions or emotions they wanted for their perusal. Whatever emotions the people asked for, the company enacted it and put it up in the form of a gif. Needless to say the campaign was a viral hit, mostly due to the company’s instant reactions. This, in turn, led to an increase in ticket sales as well as a younger audience.

Watch: A case study of Giformances

National Theatre of Scotland: Five Minute Theatre Show

The company programmed, on a microsite, 5 minute videos of theatre performances on the theme of ‘Independence’ for 24 hours, submitted to them by users from all over the world. Their only condition – presence of an audience, be it 2 people or 200. The 24 hour webcast was a mix of live streamed and recorded performances. The participants were given pre-decided slots so that everyone could share their slot within their groups/communities and have a wider audience.

The programme was a success and resulted in an increased popularity of National Theatre of Scotland.

Here is a glimpse of what went on at the Five Minute Theatre.

National Theatre Wales: Online Community

NTW had an online presence and built an NTW Community for theatre-related discussions. NTW used the same community to take suggestions as to how to make the company work better. What’s more interesting? They actually applied the suggestions the community gave them. Most theatre companies have programmes which are later publicised. But, NTW formed a programme with the help of its strong community and made itself, what one could call, a truly community-oriented company.

The NTW community is still active. The plays are reviewed, suggestions are given, and theatre in general is discussed and debated within the community.


#WeAreHere by 14-18 Now

The World War I battle called ‘The Battle of Somme’ completed its centenary on 1st July 2016. To commemorate this event, which took the lives of about 20,000 British soldiers, 14-18 Now, a programme for World War 1 Art Commissions, commissioned a project. This involved thousands of theatre actors dressing up as World War I soldiers, and roaming, busking and singing in the most public areas across the UK.

27 theatre organisations and groups across the UK partnered up for this project. The campaign went viral within half a day, under the hashtag #WeAreHere. People used Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to share what they witnessed. The campaign reminded people of the historic battle, helped theatre groups gain more popularity among the public and start a conversation as well.

Glimpses of the campaign can be watched here.

Special Mention:

Me and My Shadow

Me and My Shadow was a project undertaken by ‘body>data>space’, a collective of artists and designers who create connections between performance, architecture, new media and virtual worlds. The project involved booths set up in four different cities – London, Istanbul, Brussels and Paris, wherein performers in all four booths would shared the same virtual physical space and interacted with each other through their avatar’s movement. The avatars, which were basically silhouettes of sorts, were coloured according to the location of the performer. The participating performers moved, did routines, and interacted with each other through movement. This video takes you through the whole process of how they achieved it.

Technology and social media are opening up newer avenues and broadening the way for innovation, bringing audiences closer to the stage in ways we hardly thought was possible. It is, as the Old Bard once said, making us believe that “all the world’s a stage”!


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