Lockdown Digital Adventures

In March it became clear that the physical production which had been planned at The Egg with Bath Spa productions was not going to be possible. I still thought there must be a way to make something happen – I just wasn’t sure at first what that might be. The result was Lockdown Landscapes.

Continuing to work creatively through Lockdown was always going to be real challenge for me, as I hadn’t really worked much in the digital sphere before. To be honest I’d never even heard the word Zoom, except in reference to sound effects for motorbikes or rockets! I had not quite mastered skype or google meets and had just managed to facilitate a group call on What’s app – so this was really stepping into the unknown. I was really keen to go on this exploratory journey and embraced the fact that I didn’t have a clue where this would lead. There were loads of ideas swimming around my head, that kept occasionally popping up for air and demanding attention. It was hard to put into words what my ‘vision’ was.

Every day the way in which we could make this happen evolved – I work organically as a director anyway but this amount of unknown and change was a lot even for me! I was, however, in the fortunate position of having an amazing technical and production team to support me in this venture. They were a phenomenal sounding board, didn’t laugh (too much) at my ‘ can we just…?’ requests and and continually found new ways of working. Dedicating themselves wholeheartedly to ensuring that this was a project that, not only dealt with the unusual circumstances we found ourselves in, but that would also leave a legacy for future theatre making and training.

We didn’t have the luxury of lead in planning time, we had to be reactionary and fast paced, learning as we went along. The actors embraced working in a digital space really well, considering most of the cast had never met me or each other before, what started out as a slightly awkward space thwarted with internet issues soon became our rehearsal space, a familiar and safe space to play.

This has changed my idea of digital technology and is driving me towards working in a way that blends realities, I’ve only scratched the surface of what is out there and I can’t wait to continue my journey. The need to keep positive, stay flexible and adapt to the circumstances as they unfold has been so important during this time. Working hard to accept what can and can’t be changed has been something we have all had to get better at.

Arts Council Wales allowed us to re-purpose a grant to continue our explorations in the digital sphere. We were mentors at the Neverthere Festival advising on access in digital spaces; not just about meetings but also about creating work and how to make a digital rehearsal space accessible – something we learnt a lot about in Lockdown Landscapes.

We have explored the worlds of access in Zoom, Mozilla hubs and various other platforms. During the residencies at the festival we were introduced to so many wonderful digital experts, many of whom we hope to work with in the future. My brain was buzzing by the end of it.
In particular, I’m really interested in looking at how we can use the digital findings of the last few months to improve access to arts events. For many of us it’s the first time we have had to self-isolate or work from home but for others this is not a new thing and won’t be something that changes after lockdown. For many people getting to or being in a theatre isn’t a possibility. What this time has provide is the opportunity to be able to explore ways of providing an equality of experience that isn’t just streaming, that goes some way to create an immersive event that can be enjoyed on a physical or digital platform or through a mixture of both.

I’m so interested in blending realities and mixing media to see what the possibilities are. What I have learnt is that the technology is out there and everyone I’ve been introduced to is so happy to help a technophobe like me try and explore more options. Nothing for me will replace the live rehearsal space or live theatre for me but while this isn’t possible I’ve started discovering some real alternatives that can continue to be used in the future. We need to use these discoveries, harness them and keep developing them; having the option of viewing a show on demand, being able to watch at your own pace, the opportunity to view international productions and gather in international spaces, the interactive nature of some online events, no geographical limitations have all been things we have benefitted from. It’s not without its problems – access to internet and technology is not something that everyone has; something which needs to be addressed. There has been a posted an abundance of work and resources posted online that has either not been captioned or has been inaccessible in other ways. My plea is this: In our rush to make digital work, please don’t forget to consider access and to see it as a creative tool.

Elise Davison

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Taking Flight Theatre
Chapter Arts Centre
Market Rd
Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE
029 2023 0020

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Wales Millennium Centre
Bute Place
Cardiff, CF10 5AL

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