Theatre is an ancient and profound art form that has stood the test of time. In fact, throughout the centuries and across generations it has reflected the time and spoken boldly about it. Theatre understands how to seep into the nooks and crannies of a nation's conscience by stealth. Modern technology maximises this tenfold, thus enabling so many more people to watch great performance anytime, anyplace, anywhere. For the first time in recent history all the world's a stage. However, what that stage is and how it is experienced has dramatically changed. A stage can take so many differing shapes and forms; the crucial thing though is that it provides a space for great storytelling. Theatre is nothing without an audience and now more than ever before the quality of the total experience is of utmost importance if the art form is to be sustainable in amongst so many other entertainment distractions. Participating in a shared experience of live theatre can be enriching but how many people have the time, money, and confidence to attend? Also there are only a finite number of theatre tickets to be had and a depressingly low percentage of the population are able to attend - even if they wanted to. This is where other means of viewing and interacting with performance takes centre stage.
With the innovation of digital technology we are now able to enjoy the repertoire of a virtual stage without feeling as if we're sitting in the Gods. Highly experienced teams of theatre makers are now capturing theatre on film and their stage is an online platform. Does this reduce what theatre is? I'd offer that it celebrates it even more. For the first time audiences can have a truly up close and personal experience of a play in performance and as such better understand the craft behind it. This in turn will encourage a desire to see more live work and we'll all be the better for that too. The live and virtual experience of theatre go hand-in-glove. If the government is committed to delivering access to creativity and culture to all young people in formal education, then access via new technologies is the only way. For the play to be the thing we need to be inventive with how we play with it. A virtual experience of theatre isn't all about gadgets and computers. It's a way of putting the audience in the front row and beckoning them in close. Theatre for theatre's sake looks inward. On World Theatre Day we need to turn our eyes to the horizon and to the future.