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  • Writer's pictureleodoulton

A Final Experiment: Gentle Livestreams

I realised that I did not have time to do what I had hoped for in my final experiment of the 12 Shows sequence: a livestreamed one-person version of Savitri. Just a little bit too much technical effort to achieve in the time available.

Yet the experiment there was not really in the concept (can I do a decent production of an opera with myself, a recording, and three rocks).

It’s in the fact that I really hate the idea of being live on the internet for strangers to see. So I made a livestream and presented a brief extract of In Viriconium, a fantasy novel that, via the fictitious titular city, is one of my favourite books about early 20th-century aesthetic movements and their members.

I read the passage in which a dying artist explains her youth; the hope and aspirations of the big city, of artists in that city, before they became part of the same bland, regurgitated machine that makes up the decadent, unequal society.

Nobody actually came, of course.

But that’s alright.

Maybe I’ll do it again, at a better time.

What I found interesting was being reminded of the weird intimacy of livestreaming; of the implied invitation into a home. The close up on the face. The tenderness possible there, but also the artificiality.

As a director, I am very interested in what can be expressed with one’s feet. How do you walk? How do you stand with them? I think my favourite performers know where they’re placing their feet.

On livestream, I have no feet.

It’s something most people noticed in the pandemic, of course; the odd sensation of meeting people who had height, physical presence, smell, tactility, and feet. I know at least one person who lost the habit of wearing shoes in company. Whereas it is integral to the livestream format that one does not have feet.

As an uncomfortable livestreamer, however, I was reminded of what I know of film acting. It has an intimacy that can be leant into, and I tried to do so here.

There is an intimacy also in the loneliness of livestreaming; the limited connection with the audience beyond the buttons granted by Californian tech-overlords and the chat, always burdened with the menacing possibility of a troll emerging.

And, of course, the absence (in my case) of any actual audience combined with the constant potential that one might enter at any point.

I’m rather interested in seeing whether any of my usual audience express regret at their absence; whether this is something that I might consider doing again.

For in that intimacy, there is a gentle livestreaming possible that I’d quite like to explore.

But it is not a medium I know well, yet.

I can livestream and not suffer excessive performance nerves. This is the 21st century.

Maybe it’s time I do more with its tech.

Still simple. Still tender. Still gentle. But maybe there’s a way to get that right.



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