Third year students from the BA Acting and BA Theatre Design & Production degree programmes at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) are preparing to showcase their talent in their upcoming online university performance.
This experimental form of live theatre in digital landscapes has been created during lockdown with students in their bedrooms, living rooms and basements across the UK and the world. The final year students have been busy collaborating with Hannah McPake, performer, director and Co-founder of the multi-award-winning company Gagglebabble, on their forthcoming main house production, Lacuna, and Technical Manager and Digital Designer Ceri James, who has been experimenting with digital worlds, green screen creativity and augmented realities.
Working with writer Keiron Self, they have created a piece inspired by the stories of MR James, Edgar Allan Poe and Bessie Kyffin-Taylor. Lacuna takes you on a digital journey down the dark corridors of the human mind as you follow a death obsessed film maker haunted by nightmares of his own creating.
Stacey-Jo Atkinson, Programme Manager BA Theatre Design & Production, said:
“This has been a new venture for our department and a new challenge for our students. Rather than abandon our Main house module we decided to embrace the current situation and tackle it head on. It has been a valuable learning curve for both students and staff which demonstrates the determination and passion to continue developing new work and performing.
Throughout this project the BA Theatre Design & Production and BA Acting students have been able to work with industry professionals such as Hannah, Ceri and Keiron, as well as recent graduates who came on board as design assistants, in order to bring this piece alive. It has truly been a creative and collaborative journey for all involved.”
The production’s Technical Manager is Ceri James who has worked as a lighting designer, production manager and producer for 25 years for a diverse range of companies from Wales, UK, Europe and the USA. Staging such a performance brings a great challenge but Ceri welcomed the task and praised the students’ response. He commented:
“Working in a digital 3d landscape feels thrilling, challenging and scary. Learning a new way to express our creativity, through merging live performance, digital art and online theatre design.”
“Despite everything this year has thrown at them, the students are creating amazing work in this environment, it’s truly inspiring collaborating with them.”
During these difficult times BA Acting student, Will Kingshot, is delighted that there has still been an opportunity to follow the ‘main house theatre’ module. He commented:
“The ‘Main house Theatre’ module is a chance for us to have a full experience of being in a company, working on a big production for weeks before doing multiple performances in front of big audiences and potential casting directors and so on. I’ve always looked forward to this Module as it gives you a flavour of what you could be getting into after Graduating.
We’ve had to adapt to having rehearsals via Zoom and Skype as well as thinking of new ways to bring the Script to life as we can’t do it in a Theatre like we would have done, exploring various new styles and ideas as we continue in the process.”
Jeannette Baxter is a BA Theatre Design & Production student on an international study year from Douglas College, Vancouver. She said:
“The Main house production this year has been different to any other production that I’ve worked on, and although it wasn’t the in-person event that I was hoping for, Hannah McPake did a wonderful job of introducing us to working in an online theatre space.
Having the opportunity to work with Ceri James and the virtual world that he has built taught me that there are so many more ways of creating than I had expected. Of course, working remotely and online hasn’t come without its challenges, and ensuring that everybody’s technology is working at a similar level is one of the major ones. We’ve had many sessions reviewing a variety of tech equipment to make sure everything is adequate, and have supplied headphones, cameras, and green screens to those who needed them.
This production has reminded me how much teamwork it takes to create a production of this scale, and of how enduring the theatre world can be even in times of hardship.”
Lynne Seymour, Programme Manager for BA Acting, added:
“For the actors, as well as the design and production students, the Main house Module is their opportunity to experience working on a large cast, large scale production. They work with professional directors and creators and undertake a ‘long run’ of shows, often 10 or more over a two-week period. It is also an opportunity for casting agents and directors to come and see the students’ work as well as being able to invite local schools and colleges along with family and friends.
This year, due to the restrictions of Covid-19 and having to work online, we needed to completely rethink how we were going to undertake this module. We wanted the students to still have the experience of working on a large-scale production and to use their skills to collaborate with industry professionals. A challenge, but not impossible!
We therefore took the decision that we would create an entirely online piece combining live performance, filmed pieces and a virtual landscape to create a production that would not only use the skills the students had developed so far but stretch their creativity and imagination even further.
The world of Lacuna was created.
The students, staff and industry professionals working on the project have risen to the challenge and created an expansive and bold production that challenges preconceived ideas of ‘online theatre’ and built an exciting and imaginative world that will take their audience on a journey to the unknown.
Our main house module is still a large cast, large scale production that now has the added benefit of being able to reach a far wider audience. It has developed the creative skills of our students and prepared them to be the theatre makers in a very different graduate landscape of the performance industries than they, and we, are used to!”
Lacuna will be streaming live 25th – 28th February. Please email – [email protected] to book your digital tickets.