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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Chapter 6 - Offstage Dynamics and the Virtual Public Sphere in Cheek by Jowl’s Live Stream of Measure for Measure (2015)

from Part III - ‘Invisible’ Technology and ‘Liveness’ in Digital Theatre Broadcasting


It is a more gendered form of technologically intensified bias that concerns me in this final chapter, which examines Thomas Bowles’ live performance capture of Cheek by Jowl’s Russian touring production of Measure for Measure in 2015. More strikingly yet than Lough’s activation of the offstage dynamic in the disorienting camerawork for Hamlet’s first appearance in the 2016 RSC Live cinema broadcast, Bowles’ live stream of Measure for Measure systematically ‘framed’ Isabella’s character and the ethical standpoint she represented by keeping her, at key moments, in the liminal offstage space just outside the frame of the image. That, in turn, triggered modes of spectatorial engagement with the broadcast and with other viewers that reveal the extent to which audiences of online streams, as computer users, are prone to combine watching with interacting and can, through the cognitive prompts offered by the broadcast, be provoked into the critical modes of response which we have repeatedly seen arise from ‘eccentric’ viewpoints and obstructed sightlines. In the broadcast of Measure, we can track a shift from response-ability in the theatre to the ability of remote viewers to engage with one another and with the producers of a broadcast in dynamic online communities and to respond to the broadcast’s formal features via social media. While it would be a fallacy to suggest that the majority of these responses are critical engagements, I argue that at least some of the online responses to this particular broadcast reveal the extent to which it triggered the audience dynamics associated with both the platea and the offstage, producing ‘activist’ modes of participation.