Three leading female writers, Jan Carson, Cathy Carson and Roisín O’Donnell have lent their tales to Department Story, the latest theatre production by Big Telly Theatre Company which premieres next week (20th October) as part of Belfast International Arts Festival.
The dark comedy takes audiences, digital and in-person through an immersive shopping experience they’re not likely to forget, or escape. Sited in a vacant retail unit on Belfast’s Royal Avenue, shoppers are welcomed instore by an overly enthusiastic team of staff who are only too happy to help. But it’s not long before things take a sinister twist: the shop is closing, forever.
Department Story smashes together flash theatre and physical fiction in a killer comedic spree through a department of stories, where everything returned has a tale to tell – a talking toaster, a dress with a past, a tight-lipped hoover who may well be a key witness – accessories after the fact. Browse through classic brands like Gogol’s Overcoat or take a punt on the latest must have tales as contributed by acclaimed writers Jan Carson, Cathy Carson and Roisín O’Donnell. The hunt for bargains shifts to a hunt for escape, as stories lament the perils of our relentless desire to bag the perfect life, as in-store shoppers end up with more than they bargained for, their fate lies with those shopping online – but can they deliver?
This new production created for both in-person and digital audiences by Big Telly Theatre’s Artistic Director Zoe Seaton and interdisciplinary artist Jack Hardiker demonstrates next level hybrid theatre made possible by the newly created Remote Control. The transformative white label platform revolutionises digital audience engagement, maximising the potential of a unique relationship between physical and remote (digital) live audiences. Developed with London based creative studio afew, the new platform offers digital audiences as much interactivity and quality as the physical audience, by presenting both groups complementary experiences of equal value.
The development of Remote Control reflects Big Telly Theatre’s combined previous success in reaching communities and creating work outside traditional arts spaces with recent success in digital innovation. The company firmly believe the new platform represents a genuinely unprecedented opportunity to finally redress the inequality of professional arts provision across Northern Ireland, and to continue to fight to ensure theatre is as accessible as possible, either online or in-person.
Zoe Seaton, Artistic Director of Big Telly Theatre Company said: “Department Story is full of twists and turns and tales of the unexpected. It stocks the old, the new and the borrowed. Jan, Roisin and Cathy have contributed not only beautiful words, but bold and deeply human characters, who we are delighted to bring to life in this new-fangled world of ours.”
Roisín O’Donnell said: “I was immediately taken by the idea of a Department Story. I think for all of us, objects act as such powerful repositories of story. I love the idea of a veil, a toaster, a pair of red shoes as a type of teleporter. A trapdoor into the quicksand of the past.”
Jan Carson said: “It’s always exciting to see how fellow artists explore and interpret your work. I was delighted to have Big Telly bring a new lease of life to one of my Postcard Stories and am looking forward to seeing what magic they breathed into my words.”
Cathy Carson said: “It’s a real thrill to work with such an innovative creative group of people dedicated to pushing the corners of performance and audience experience. I really enjoyed the challenge of taking a character who could be everyone and anyone and exploring how they would react when all the buttons have been pushed.”
Department Story is presented as part of Belfast International Arts Festival and runs from 20th October – 31st October 2021 online and in-person. To book visit – https://belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/department-story/