Theatre in motion: I'm sick of Zoom performances

The self-centred art – how theatre's purpose has changed in lockdown

Theatre in motion: I'm sick of Zoom performances

I am sick of Zoom performances. There, I’ve said it. No-one was ever pretending that they were as good as the real deal, no-one was even suggesting that they came in at a noble second place. But I have watched dozens of self-taped monologues. Scores of backing track musical numbers. Hundreds of facetime comedy sketches. And I have praised them until my fingers are mere nubs. 

In challenging times, we must rise to the challenge. Theatre has certainly tried. I have written numerous articles hailing the innovative ways that drama groups have adapted to the pandemic, exalting the bravery and unity that is exhibited by online performances. But after months, upon months, upon cooped-up months of watching productions online, I have just about had my fill. 

Don’t get me wrong, online performances are certainly better than nothing. But they always leave me feeling as if I’ve snuck into a dress rehearsal performance, as if I remain eagerly awaiting the grand opening night. And there is one fatal flaw with the medium. It’s far too self-indulgent. 

I am a voracious believer in theatre as a two-fold social force. It acts as a cathartic expression or experience for the performers, and as a didactic, entertaining, or escapist enterprise for the audience. There’s just one minor pandemic problem. Over Zoom, the latter half has been thrown out the window. Online productions are wonderful for the actors. After all, it’s their only platform at the moment. But for an audience, there’s only so much entertainment that you can squeeze out of a screen, especially when it’s the same screen you’ve been writing essays on all day. 

Without set, without props, without interactions between actors, theatre is simply a little bit bland. It’s natural of course - or why else would we bother with all those things back in the olden, golden days of packed auditoriums and ensemble-filled stages. 

And so, there’s only one conclusion to draw. Theatre has become more focussed on its actors than its audience. Its purpose has changed because of lockdown. 

It’s fair enough, I suppose. Theatre needed to adapt to survive. More importantly, actors need theatre to survive too, and it’s still providing that service as best it can at the moment. But theatre is simply failing to provide as successful a service to its audience.

So yes - I’m bored of Zoom performances. In fairness, I’m bored of Zoom everything. Theatre just isn’t as entertaining online. But if it bides its time, if it tides actors over, then it can emerge at the other end ready to delight. And believe me, I’ll be 50% of its total ticket sales when it does. 

Header Image Credit: Pixabey


Alexandra Hart

Alexandra Hart Contributor

I'm a student from London with a mammoth passion for all things theatrical. My favourite things are reviews, fringe festivals and interval ice-creams! I am currently completing my Gold Arts Award which is giving me the chance to be a little bit more wacky with my arts-inspired projects - so watch out North London!

Writing for Voice Mag has given me a platform to develop my journalism and artistic skills - the perfect excuse to attend even more arts events in my local area. When I'm dancing, acting or creating I feel like I finally have a purpose in life. I hope this will be the start of an epic journey fuelled by my passion, and, propelled by my enthusiasm, this is what I want to spend the rest of my life doing!

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  • Hector Macduff

    On 5 March 2021, 10:21 Hector Macduff Kickstart Team commented:

    God knows art can be self indulgent and the fact you have found so many praise worthy zoom performances is brilliant but that disconnect in not having the same escapism or suspense of disbelief, that you could find in a play or a film, from the actors perspective is because it isn't a play or a film. Acting for stage and screen require different skills and a play on zoom is a horrible blend that tends to combine the weakness' of the two.
    So fingers crossed for a return to normalcy so the show can go on!

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