Our Speaker: Tom Straszewski
The Fall of Lucifer: shared sensations within the domestic space of online theatre
I am a PhD researcher and community theatre director, currently exploring how community theatre groups use sites in their performances of the York Mystery Plays. I specialise in site-based theatre, with credits including York Mystery Plays 2018, Shakespeare in pubs (Henry IV: A Pub Wake) and gardens (Richard II), Dracula in an abandoned house, a Dickens travelogue in parks (The Lazy Tour), and Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist in a gin shop attic. I work closely with York International Shakespeare Festival and York Shakespeare Project on community productions.
With our physical horizons dramatically reduced, online theatre allows communities to gather together and perform once more. However, online read-throughs have focused on the aural/oral, with visual elements often an afterthought. In doing so, online theatre positions the screen as the site of performance, rather than as a nexus of physical presences. Meanwhile, sensations shared by actors and audience- touch, smell, taste- become impossible to share, undermining the “concentrated co-presence” that characterises theatre performances (Sullivan 2018).
I address these issues by bringing site-specific methodology- a focus on the specificities of a space- to bear on a domestic site. As Klein et al. (2019, 10) suggest, ownership of a space is formed not only by money or legal documents, but by “the rituals (daily and extraordinary) that we enact within it”. In rehearsing this ritual play of community/identity-forming, it becomes a way of forming domestic sites as a creative space. By staging the York Mystery Plays’ Creation of the Angels/Fall of Lucifer, I explore how physical touchstones found in a domestic space- a matchstick, a chair, a handful of earth- can ground a virtual, global performance in the physical and local.
In advance, I ask viewers to find within their local environment the following items:
A box of matches.
Earth/soil/dust A throne.
A blank page.
The dominant scent.
A familiar taste.
These might be the actual object, a substitute (a cigarette or a bike light for a matchbox) or a metaphorical replacement (earth/soil replaced by a local map). Be creative!