This article is part of the Dramaturgs’ Network Invisible Diaries series.

Woke up today to packed bags laid out on the living room carpet. My four-year-old is going on holiday. To her grandparents in Germany. ‘The doctors will fight the Coronavirus,’ she says optimistically. ‘They don’t need our help anymore.’

Photo courtesy of Duška Radosavljević.

I get her. I’m starting to feel the same… It’s that moment in the plot when we need a change of routine.

My strategy is trying to get deeper into work. I watched three online shows today and had a Zoom meeting about digital ways of working. I think I’m starting to understand what my difficulty of watching theatre on screen is about. All the theatre work I’m interested in is about the here and now, breaking down the fourth wall, relating to the audience. Trying to experience/appreciate this via a screen is a paradox, to say the least.

For reasons related to my current research project, this morning I watched a Croatian show from 2011 – Mauzer, inspired by Heiner Müller, created by Borut Šeparović for ZKM (Zagreb Youth Theatre). It is a complex, 2-hour long examination of how biographies of revolutionaries are written – to what extent they are fact or fiction/myth, and, prompted by Müller, at what point it is OK to kill for the revolution.

It is a participatory piece of theatre and, half-way through, there is a moment in which the makers/performers deliberately disrupt the fictional frame to reflect on the fact/fiction distinction in the theatre itself. ‘Imagine all theatres in the world had to close for a year!’, they say to the startled audience. ‘Well, okay, maybe not all of them, maybe all theatres in this city – maybe just this theatre, for a year, ok. What would you do?’ It’s a moment in which the ‘there and then’ of the recorded performance collapses in on the ‘here and now’ of the world in which all theatres are closed, in a really unforeseen way.

Maybe this is the sort of list of recordings we should be compiled at the moment to share on social media to narrow down the enormously eclectic repertoire on offer – recorded theatre that connects with our shared ‘here and now’ of social isolation and the digital imperative. Could someone do this list, please?

Maybe, rather than fantasizing about escape, we should all just go deeper in…

I am repeatedly coming across articles that claim that crisis situations like this breed revolutions. It’s a strangely comforting thought for the world in lockdown. But, prompted by the questions with which the show I saw this morning tried to grapple, I’m trying to imagine what sort of a revolution would be ok with me at this point in life. Hopefully, a bloodless one, if possible? Maybe a slow one – the type the Earth does, revolving around its own axis, rotating around the sun, barely perceptible but endlessly refreshing, renewing, re-energizing and reassuring. And one in which we unanimously, unwaveringly and urgently resolve to honor the needs of the planet.

What else? In the Dramaturgs’ Network’s Zoom Stammtisch about making theatre virtually, fellow dramaturg Miranda Laurence encapsulated a group conversation we were having with the following question: ‘What is a rehearsal room in the digital realm?’ I.e. ‘What is it that we value about getting into a room together with others to create work?’. The current technology we are working with, as powerful and versatile and amazing as it is, still presents us with the problem of walls. The only way we can see each other is through this tiny ‘fourth wall’ built into our immediate surroundings, but we cannot easily inhabit a shared three-dimensional virtual space together just yet. The Zoom dictates turn-taking, it limits contagion in every way – even the positive contagion of ideas, where they blend and grow in such a way you never know who really came up with it first – it is too clean and clinical for what real creative process requires. I’m not even sure I would want a digital replacement for the real experience but it makes it abundantly clear that what we are actually missing at the moment is the shared spatiality of theatre and performance.

It’s not really the holiday that my four year wants, more the sense of travel, of movement through space, I think. A change of scenery perhaps. Totally understandable given it is early April and she has not left the house for 15 days.

‘We can’t go yet, lovely, we have to wait a bit more!’

‘Oh, not today – in ten months’ time: in July.’

Good job her sense of time is pretty stretchy, at least for now.

This blog entry appeared in Dramaturgs’ Network on April 8th, 2020, and has been reposted with permission.

This is an edited version of a post that was first published on the Dramaturgs’ Network blog on 8 April 2020, as part of the Invisible Diaries-series. 

#InvisibleDiaries

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.