Recorded performance as digital content: Perspectives from Fringe 2020

Chris Elsden, Diwen Yu, Benedetta Piccio, Ingi Helgason, Melissa Terras

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Within days of performance venues being forced to close their doors in 2020, the National Theatre began broadcasting high-quality recordings of the best of London’s West End. Few other companies could dream of having such rich recorded archives to draw upon. Indeed, for many artists there is a clear tension in the very idea of recording work that is intended to be experienced live.

This essay reports on 20 in-depth interviews with performers and theatre-makers who had planned to bring shows to the 2020 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This article reports on how performers responded to the prolonged closure of venues, and developed a series of strategies to generate value from recordings, even with limited production budgets. Crucially, very few opted to record whole live shows in empty theatres – instead they found specific uses and rationales for recording performance, while developing new expertise with sharing recorded media on digital platforms.

We argue that these digitally mediated performances are distinct from other forms of film or ‘live-to-digital’ theatre. Indeed, we suggest that this emerging genre of record will persist beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, and points to new opportunities in recording, broadcasting, and archiving performing arts as digital content.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerformance in a Pandemic
EditorsLaura Bissell, Lucy Weir
PublisherRoutledge
Edition1
ISBN (Print)9780367761349
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 5 May 2021

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