It’s the sort of question that seems engineered to bring out the theatrical purists, torches a-blazing: can a filmed live performance hold up as a viable way of taking in theatre?
There are, to be sure, certain elements of performance that only really translate when you’re in the same room, breathing the same air as the actors. But over in London at Shakespeare’s Globe, the restoration-minded theatre is attempting to bridge the gap between live and filmed with Globe On Screen: recordings of its performances, filmed in high-def and screened at movie theatres across the world.
“I think in the old days, when people filmed stuff on video, it was so horrendously lifeless and dull that it put you off even the idea of capturing stuff in that way, or wanting to,” artistic director Dominic Dromgoole explains over the phone from his London office. “Since high definition’s come in, and the qualities of sound recording have advanced so far, it’s a much more attractive thing to do.”
The original home of Shakespeare’s works, the Globe Theatre, burned down in 1613 (and was subsequently rebuilt, only to be torn down in 1644 to make room for tenements). Since 1997, Shakespeare’s Globe has sat approximately 750 feet from the original site, designed to be as authentic a recreation as possible—open air and all. Its newfound use of modern film technology with Globe on Screen (as well as a streaming service offering access to those filmed productions) is simply looking to take that preservative element a step further. This year marks the first time those screenings have found their way into Canadian theatres: Taming of the Shrew‘s up this weekend, with The Tempest, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream following in consecutive months.
The productions are filmed over two nights, with the film being an edited hybrid of both shows. But even when the cameras are on, Dromgoole is adamant that for the actors, nothing changes.
“We’re very rigorous in trying to ensure that no one changes what they’re doing, or their pitch, or their tone, to make it more filmic,” he says. “We’re very keen that we carry on and do the theatre show, and the film is a recording of that event, rather than something halfway between the two. You’d get awful muddled if you were asking actors to repitch their performance to the camera when they’ve got 1500 people in front of them.”
And as for that certain liveness inherent to being in the room with a performance?
“You lose that, you gain some other stuff,” Dromgoole audibly shrugs. “I think the ability to go in close on actors, the ability to hear very clearly, the ability to share into the private moments with them, is a plus that you can get on screen that you can’t necessarily get on the stage.”
Sat, Dec 20 (11 am)
Taming of the Shrew
Landmark City Centre Cinemas