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Home / Brunch / Online theatre performances: Fun or flop show?

Online theatre performances: Fun or flop show?

Can watching a stage performance on a screen be just as much fun? Two theatre artists argue

brunch Updated: Sep 13, 2020 07:12 IST
Quasar Thakore Padamsee and Akarsh Khurana
Quasar Thakore Padamsee and Akarsh Khurana
Hindustan Times
Is all the world truly a stage?
Is all the world truly a stage?(Shutterstock & Getty Images)

“Is it ‘theatre’ when it’s online? Nah!”

By Quasar Thakore Padamsee

Quasar feels watching a play is a communal experience and you’re a part of a collective as an audience
Quasar feels watching a play is a communal experience and you’re a part of a collective as an audience

The lockdown seems here to stay and theatre makers are trying to find innovative ways to share their stories. They are ‘jugaad-o-fying’ with software used for meetings, repurposing them for live performances.

Recently, someone said performing on Zoom was like a theatre troupe converting a conference room into a performance space. It’s true. Stories can still be told. Interaction with audience members can still be included. But is it ‘theatre’? Nah, I don’t think so. Because the audience is not together. We are all separately watching a performer through a little window on our electronic device. But it’s the closest we can come to theatre right now.

In all likelihood, digital live performances will endure after lockdown. There are obvious advantages: intimacy, close-ups, sound clarity, and accessibility. But it cannot replace the stage experience. Watching a play is a communal experience. You are part of a collective as an audience. And when you combine with other members of an audience to laugh, or sigh, or hold your breath because as a unit you care about the character, that’s theatre magic!

Until then, we’ll keep trying to find better ways to tell our stories live.

“Being open to adapting is key”

By Akarsh Khurana

Akarsh argues that adapting is key and like life, theatre will find a way
Akarsh argues that adapting is key and like life, theatre will find a way

An artist’s basic instinct is to create art. So when conventional theatre performances are not an option, people will find innovative ways to tell stories. If a virtual scenario is the only creative outlet, so be it.

Someone recently mentioned in a Theatre Adda (a monthly meeting of theatre people to discuss theatre life in the lockdown) that right now it is important to decide what you want to create and communicate. The how will follow. I’m happy to see so much theatre activity online. We are grappling with new formats. But we also hit the ground running. Thanks to my producer Saatvika, we recorded a play on Zoom – Bubble by Kieran Hurley – while the country was still getting used to it. The mistakes we made helped us in our next production – Love, Bombs and Apples.

So, being open to adapting is key. And as we speak, more methods are being created for high-quality theatre online. Like life, theatre will find a way.

Quasar Thakore Padamsee is a theatre actor-turned-director. He’s directed and produced over 20 plays with the theatre company, QTP, which he co-founded at the age of 21 in 1999.

Akarsh Khurana is an actor, screenwriter and theatre artist. He’s is known for films such as Karwaan (2018), Kites (2010) and Krrish 3 (2013) and plays like Damages and All About Women.

From HT Brunch, September 13, 2020

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