The director of a new theatre company wants you to please keep your phone on during the performance.
The Adaptivity Theatre Company started up in May under the directorship of Kelly Wilson.
For its first outing it will tackle Shakespeare’s classic play Much Ado About Nothing, the beloved romantic comedy that pioneered the trope of a couple, clearly meant to be together, that won’t stop arguing.
However, Wilson’s will be a Shakespeare play for the 21st century. While the play is acted out on stage like normal, audience members will be invited to join a special Facebook group that will complement the show.
The characters will post in the group, adding to the plot via the digital medium.
“There’s little private chats going on that the audience are a part of,” Wilson said.
“There’s news feed postings that the audience can interact with – for example, [lead character] Benedick does a poll, ‘what tie should I wear for the wedding?’
“So, the audience gets to control the kind of performance they experience. They can look at the live performance, they can look at the digital performance, or try and go back and forth between both, and it’s kind of a little microcosm of life.”
Wilson wrote the adaption while she was studying at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, and has stayed true to the original Shakesperean dialogue, although her adaption is set in Launceston rather than the original Italy.
However, the use of the Facebook group has allowed her to put her own spin on it.
Audiences can continue watching the characters scheme and react offstage through social media, in a portrayal of Shakespeare’s themes of gossip and shame that Wilson said will be all too relevant in the digital age.
Additionally, there will be digital projections throughout the performance, and some of the lines have been turned into songs with original music.
Wilson hopes the play’s novel presentation will encourage the audience to reflect on their own social media use.
“When I did it in London, at the end of the performance audience members were thinking back and saying, ‘I was really at the time interested in this conversation that was going on [in the group], but then I realised, I never looked up and saw this actress that was singing this beautiful song, so I don’t have any visual memory of what it looked like,’” she said.
“They say ‘I wish I’d done this’ or ‘I wish I’d done that.’
“They’re reflecting on the role of social media in their own life and how it impacts their own relationships.”
Much Ado About Nothing will run at the Newstead College Auditorium from Wednesday, September 19 to Saturday September 22 at 7.30pm and 2pm on Saturday, $20 adult, $15 concession or group of six or more.