UK company Forced Entertainment have, in recent years, leveraged technology far more creatively than many companies, and with a populist twist. Rather than the flashy (and pricey!) live stream performances to Cineplexes around the world a la West End and NT Productions, Forced have been providing their performances via free of charge live stream. This, of course, works fittingly with the durational nature of their work -- I can't imagine a Cineplex giving up 24 hours in one of their cinemas. But the result is that this highly unique work can make its way to North American audiences. The feed of their Complete Works -- a Table Top storytelling performance of the Complete Works of Shakespeare -- is available until September 9th streaming from TheaterFestival Basel in Switzerland at this link.
So...what is it? Well, lets delve in to their Richard II for a sampling. Told with a single performer in a storytelling format, Richard II employs the use of every day objects one might find at a bar to create the characters of the story of the ineffective English King who gave up his throne to Henry Bollingbroke. It sounds, in premise, silly -- how can a bottle of Ballantyne's represent an English King? How can tiny salt shakers represent his ill advised friends, Bushy, Baggot, and Greene? Well in the hands of a truly captivating storyteller, able to whittle down the story to the key plot points and perspectives while imbuing these seemingly arbitrary objects with the emotions of the story, it is truly successful.
The objects begin feeling ordinary, but quickly enjoy significance. It is a demonstration of the power of semiotics in storytelling -- that objects we present on stage are steeped with meaning because we GIVE them meaning simply by touching them in this lit space. And the objects take on the power of the story so beautifully that by time the play ends, and Bollingbroke stands over Richard's body -- one alcohol bottle standing up, the other tipped over -- we feel the tragedy of this fallen King with such force, almost more so than we would seeing actors on a stage.
I STRONGLY recommend trying one out over the next few days.