A leading UK artistic director is confident live streaming will form part of theatre’s new normal even when members of the public are allowed back into auditoriums.
Adrian McDougall has produced 19 national tours with Berkshire-based touring theatre company Blackeyed Theatre since he launched the firm in 2004, including the world premiere of Steven Berkoff’s Oedipus.
But in mid-March, Mr McDougall and his team were forced into making the unthinkable decision to cancel their global tour of Jane Eyre when COVID-19 resulted in theatres closing. The tour was Blackeyed Theatre’s biggest to date, but 13 weeks of performances – including a month in China – were lost because of the pandemic.
When COVID-19 restrictions were eased in the summer, Blackeyed Theatre made the decision to partner with live streaming company TicketCo TV and broadcast a performance of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde via its HD quality pay-per-view service.
The one-off online show proved such a success that Mr McDougall and his team have returned to the abandoned Jane Eyre tour to deliver an on-demand production that will be available on TicketCo TV from Friday, November 27.
For Mr McDougall, the power of live streaming means he has been able to engage with Blackeyed Theatre’s global audience even during the bleakest of years for the entertainment sector.
“Live streaming is here to stay, I don’t believe it will disappear even once theatres are able to open their doors again,” he said. “The value of being in a theatre and sharing the experience with others is irreplaceable – that has been made very clear to myself and my theatre colleagues during this pandemic.
“But live online theatre itself is a unique experience where the control that we have in an ‘on-demand era’ is taken away. By partnering with TicketCo TV, we have been able to grow our audience beyond the auditorium. Monetising our performances using TicketCo’s platform means we have knocked down barriers that may have prevented people from attending theatre in a pre-COVID world – such as cost, illness, or accessibility.”
Blackeyed Theatre has also been able to continue its engagement with schools across the UK by providing education packages, interviews, and live performances to students studying shows that have relevance to drama, performing arts and English literature syllabuses. In a typical year, Blackeyed Theatre works with up to 100 schools across the UK and tens of thousands of students and it did not want to lose the interaction.
Mr McDougall said: “We conducted a survey of approximately 500 teachers earlier this year and discovered school trips would not be possible until at least April 2021 and possibly September 2021.
“Therefore, like our live streaming pathway with TicketCo TV, we have been forced to adapt and realise that with every challenge comes an opportunity. We have put together digital packages designed for students that cannot currently attend theatre – it is about adapting to the new world.
“This includes providing our work that was live streamed in September and filmed earlier this month for on-demand access to our audiences. What theatre can learn from this year is that live streaming has opened an entire window of opportunities.”
TicketCo is a cloud-based event payment company, with offices in Norway, the UK, and Sweden. TicketCo’s technology is designed to make event payments quick and easy. Its payment platform is integrated with its pay-per-view live streaming service.
Joe Edwards, Global Account Manager at TicketCo TV said: “We’re proud to be working with such an innovative company and helping Blackeyed Theatre continue to perform and engage its global audience. Theatre is such a fabric of our society and by embracing modern technology it can continue to entertain and survive COVID-19.”
To purchase and watch Blackeyed Theatre’s production of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde on demand, visit https://blackeyedtheatre.co.uk/shows-2/on-demand/the-strange-case-of-dr-jekyll-and-mr-hyde/.