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Guest Blog: Sharlit Deyzac and Amy Clare Tasker On The Onstage and Online VOILA! EUROPE THEATRE FESTIVAL

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Guest Blog: Sharlit Deyzac and Amy Clare Tasker On The Onstage and Online VOILA! EUROPE THEATRE FESTIVAL
The Farewell Concert

Touring theatre internationally is not easy at the best of times: it's expensive, logistically complex, and has a carbon footprint that should give us pause. As much as we love travelling to other countries and connecting with artists across language barriers and cultural differences, we're finding the bright side in having to adapt the Voila! Europe Theatre Festival into a hybrid programme of onstage and online performances.

As always, the companies participating in this year's festival are a mix of UK-based European artists, and artists visiting from abroad. The difference is, now we're able to present all these shows without anyone getting on a plane.

Our home venue The Cockpit has created a whole new broadcasting department over the past few months, which means that we can film shows on stage for 'online replay', present live shows that have been designed for Zoom, and host watch parties of pre-recorded shows, followed by a live discussion with the artists.

Thanks to the Hungarian Cultural Centre, London, a newly filmed version of K2 Theater's Farewell Concert will be included in the festival as a watch party and discussion event. Even without the current travel difficulties of bringing the company to London from Budapest, it would have been impossible to stage this show in person this year: the performers sing Mozart's Requiem at a dinner party at the end of the world, and at one point, there's a symphonic coughing fit. K2 created the show last year as a response to the environmental crisis, but it takes on new meanings in the time of Covid.

Though we've expanded the festival online in response to the pandemic, there are other benefits to a hybrid onstage and online programme. As well as the environmental and financial savings, online theatre helps us to overcome the challenges of Brexit - we expect it will be very difficult for a small festival like ours to deal with visa requirements for artists coming from the EU in 2021.

Guest Blog: Sharlit Deyzac and Amy Clare Tasker On The Onstage and Online VOILA! EUROPE THEATRE FESTIVAL
Alice in Wonderland

This also means we can include companies from beyond the EU, like Arlekin Players. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, the company is in the midst of a digital international tour of State vs Natasha Banina. Since June, they've presented the show via host venues in the USA and Canada, and are heading to a festival in Israel after their stop in London with Voila.

Digital touring helps us open up the festival to more audiences, too. For some people, getting to the theatre is difficult even if they are in London, due to disability or caring responsibilities, for example, so online theatre helps us to reach people who we might not otherwise see at the festival.

Imagine the power of sharing cultural references with theatregoers in Portland, Santiago, Rome, Moscow, Johannesburg, Tokyo... This kind of reach used to be one of the key differences between film and theatre, but what if that could change?

Digital theatre is not new, but what's shifted recently is that audiences are more willing to engage with live performance online, and we're all discovering together what's possible. If you miss travelling between cultures as much as we do, grab a ticket for one of our online shows, and take yourself there with theatre instead.

Voila! Europe 2020 runs 9-21 November, with work previously planned for The Cockpit before the second lockdown was announced now running online


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