The old saying is ‘the show must so on’ and never in the theatre industry has that phrase meant so much. With curtains drawn and auditorium doors closed all over the world, there has been a huge shift towards using the internet as a performing platform in order to keep the industry running and keep a light shining of those working within it. For final year students at Marjon University, the lockdown meant that their performance plans were suddenly scuppered, but that didn’t stop them. No, the new phrase is now ‘the show must go online’ with their production of Caryl Churchill’s Love and Information moving online, conducted over the now highly popular video chat service Zoom.
First performed in 2012, Love and Information brings together numerous different scenes, more than five minutes long each, over seven different sections with titles such as ‘Secret’, ‘Affair’ and ‘˜fate’. The general idea of this play is a series of questions, all relating to relationships and conversations. When is it best to keep a secret? When is it best to reveal the truth? Who can you trust? How do you relate to those around you? Is there such a thing as too much information?
There are many things about the script that makes it rather unique. Described in 2012 by Matt Trueman, writing for online company WhatsOnStage, as a ‘Build a Bear’ script, the multiple scenes within this production can be slotted into whatever section the director desires, which could change the perspective of each scene. There is also no set number of cast members, and over 100 characters, meaning that it is common for a cast member to play multiple parts. These gives the cast and the creative team a huge amount of freedom in putting this show together, which perhaps made it the perfect sort of show to be performed in this strange new way over the internet.
Even though I have watched a number of theatre broadcasts from the comfort of my own home during the lockdown, I have to admit that it did feel incredibly odd to watch a play performed over zoom. Not in a bad way, just in a different way. With no set and little movement, we were instead presented with a series of scenes in little boxes with computerised backdrops. It’s all very new, and it took me a little way to get used to it, especially when the backdrops changed so quickly and often blurred and jumped during transitions.
With the play being performed over Zoom and the play’s overall structure and style, I have to be honest and say that I struggled to feel much of a connection to it. As a theatre lover and an audience member, I love to feel involved in the lives of the characters, and really connect to their story as the show progresses. With Love and Information, with its multiple scenes and many characters changing so rapidly, that connection was lost for me. Even though each character was developed with a clear story, as they only featured in one scene, there wasn’t a lot to connect too. As soon as you had just started to understand a character, they were gone.
I have to congratulate all of the final year acting students and the creative team for putting this all together because it can’t have been easy. After all, everyone says it. Technology is great when it works, and a great pain in the bum when it doesn’t. I can only imagine how hard it must have been to organise this, and to perform it whilst concentrating to getting the backdrops right along with changes in props and costume, it was like a military operation. The cast make it look easy to switch between characters so quickly and were able to create multiple unique characters that each had a story to tell. These young performers have bright futures ahead.
Well done to the entire Marjon Acting team for keeping this production going and bringing it online for us all to enjoy.