August 19, 2015
Last Friday (14 Aug) Stage Solutions customer Almeida Theatre produced a continuous reading of the whole of Homer’s epic poem The Iliad. 16 hours of continuous reading by 60 actors (many of them household names) began in the Great Court of the British Museum at 9am and ended at the Almeida itself well after midnight.
This was an extraordinary event and one that would formerly have been unavailable to all but a lucky few. Yet, in a brilliant combination of old and new technologies, the Almeida took the decision to live-stream the entire performance on their website. So, wherever you were, you could experience it through your computer, tablet or phone. I would always claim that theatre is a medium best experienced at first hand. But, if you managed to catch any of the streaming, you can’t fail to have been captivated by the intensity of both text and delivery.
Three things stand out for me:
First, it shouldn’t really be a surprise but it’s nonetheless fantastic to be reminded how great the Iliad is. This a story from another country, another civilisation and quite another time but the themes it explores and the techniques it uses to entrap our attention are as effective here today as they were in Homer’s day.
Secondly, although this was not story-telling in its purest form – as the performers were all reading – it is still a great reminder of the power of the art form. Homer created this without writing it down. It was originally performed without sets or costumes, without sound or lighting effects. Nowadays, faced with a public demanding ever more extravagant technical effects, the power of the story-teller to capture our imaginations is a reminder that less is often more.
Thirdly, if technology is easy to present as a dangerous genie now well-and-truly out of its bottle, events like the live-streaming of the Iliad show us that it is still possible to make it work for us in the most creative of ways.
If you are interested, keep an eye on this – http://ow.ly/R0b8A – for news of Iliad podcasts and other related items.