Theatre & The Digital by Bill Blake – Book Review

theatre & the digitalNecessarily limited in scope due to the short overview nature of the “theatre &” series, Blake’s survey nonetheless feels too niche and closeted given the title of the book. That being said, he does commit successfully to his own brief not to exaggerate or over-generalise (pp.11-12). Restricted to just three main examples, all North American, he goes into a brief analysis of how and why the digital is used for theatre performance. He discusses instrumentalism and a new vogue for relational art; the problems of newness for the sake of being new and talked about, rather than excellence; theatre and “progress”; digital theatre as a tool for problem solving. In the end his thesis becomes a relativist statement about the metaculture in relation to the individual pieces of theatre within it. All in all a lucid entry point into thinking about the relationships between audience, theatre and the digital but not much more.

Key quotes:

“[A] fact that is hard to ignore when discussing digital theatre projects: the exuberance for their newness is often more interesting to talk about than to actually experience.” (p.47)

“Aside from the good intentions, the goal of making new and useful theatre that appeals to the non-theatre-going audiences is, by definition, a type of publicity cause.” (p.45)

“Accessibility is not sufficient; promising new platforms for cultural outreach ultimately depend on creating a demand for the works they produce.” (p.45)

Philosophically orientated theatre is: “mired in its own fraught condition, an endlessly unsettled conflict between theatre artists who grasp at challenging insights and theatre audiences who are too easily satisfied with sociable exchange.” (pp.59-60)

“[A]rtistic activity is dependent for its identity on the cultural institutions and metacultural phenomena circulating around it.” (p.70)

Published by Palgrave Macmillan (2014) with a Foreword by Matt Adams. Click here to view on Goodreads.