We’re standing on the crossed tracks of a cultural epoch. As cinema is bulking out and bursting into a third dimension, theatre is squeezing down into a new, flat-packed space – but it’s us that will be holding our breath.
For a start, life has finally begun to imitate art. Merely 2,425 years after Aristophanes’ The Birds took to the skies with a fantastic exploration of what it means to live next to the gods, many of us have taken to our own elevated place of opinion in the virtual world.
For Aristophanes’ characters, the sky enabled a sense of authority as it positioned them higher in both a literal and metaphorical hierarchy. Now, many of us have taken to the skies in our flocks. In 140 characters or fewer, we are hurtling down our judgement. Like the birds who excreted upon the city of Athens, we too can let our tweeting birds fly high as ambassadors of public opinion.
Fascinatingly, through the completion of such interactions, we can play around with our identities. We all know the internet allows identity fraud to flourish and, of course, the line between acting and deception has always been a thin one. Just take a look at the alter-ego, one of the founding principles of theatre. Now, it is easy to play with as our identities are liberated just like on the stage. The internet is a rich and fertile experimental arena for testing new identities and trying them out on an unsuspecting audience. Fed up of being the quiet kid? The internet allows you play at being as gobby as you dare. Constantly cursing the nose your mother gave you? Swap it for a delicate one, just like Megan Fox’s. Even better, while you’re there add a set of Gothic angel wings and dye your virtual hair purple.
So theatre provides new ways for us to act, both in the behavioural sense and in the artistic way. Similarly, the internet also provides new ways for productions to be acted. Take a peek at Mudlark’s Such Tweet Sorrow, a fantastically dynamic and relevant take on what is possibly one of the most prolific plays of all time. Mudlark’s Mercutio is as challenging as he ever was as he declares, ‘Big breasted nympho’s you’ve let me down – date with my right hand it is then’. Scandalous, relevant and full of quick wit, this original lad is fabulously repackaged for the digital age. As Twitter hashtags clash with YouTube links, we’re clearly a far cry from three-dimensional adaptations with their multiple surfaces to gather dust on.
As theatre increasingly dabbles in site-specific and challenging, interactive theatre, the web provides an intense experimental and creative ground. Obviously, nothing can beat getting out of the house and seeing theatre in 3D, especially as, conveniently tailored to the existing visual powers of human beings, it often works out a lot cheaper than its Hollywood counterpart. Yet if the internet provides a way to ‘theatrically’ represent ourselves and emphasise our opinions, it is valid. And if it proves to be entertaining, too, then it’s time to press the LIKE button.