But a livestream – and indeed a recording after the event – can and should become works in their own right, says Ravi Deepres, who was film designer for Crave at Chichester Festival Theatre last year.
He worked on the production’s video projections, also worked on its livestreaming and has now worked on a new edit of the piece which the CFT are showing – with remastered sound and incorporating new footage – on demand from May 19-29.
Originally scheduled to be performed as part of the 2020 Chichester Festival Theatre summer season that didn’t happen, Sarah Kane’s Crave instead became part of the autumn season – before the theatre was forced to shut again.
Thanks to Ravi’s streaming, the show became the production that defied lockdown, shown live to thousands of people in 50 countries around the globe as the show’s cast of four performed in Chichester Festival Theatre’s empty auditorium.
“I was approached a couple of months before the new autumn dates. They brought me in as the film designer for the piece, working on the film installations as well as overseeing the livestream.”
The director’s vision was to underline the multiple voices in the piece: “We all went off and interpreted the play in our own ways and came back together and worked together. It is very much a reactionary process, the best way to work. You have to be flexible and versatile in how you adapt to what you are all doing together. My vision for it was to make something very, very graphic, but also quite primal. I used a lot of overlapping layers. We also used on-stage cameras that were like live feeds. We created an illusion of what was happening in real time and also virtually to try to get an idea of what was going on in the characters’ heads.”
In the piece, in a damaged world, four characters search for the light in a heart-rending, funny, kind and cruel meditation on the meaning of love. For many in the audience, the pandemic added to the poignancy and significance of it all.
“It added attention to the way that everyone was working – in quite a good way. The subject of the play was about a lot of these characters who were very repressed or trying to escape from themselves in some way, and that was a metaphor for the way that the country was at the time. Making theatre was a way for us to use art to escape what was happening, to help people escape.”
And for those that couldn’t actually be there? Well, the livestream – and now the stream – must help to bridge the gap: “The main difference obviously is that the theatre works best when you are actually there. It is a live experience. It is an artform that demands a live experience for everyone.
“A lot of things when they are recorded and put back on screen lose a lot of the emotional intensity. You are not there. You can’t feel in the same way. You are just not using your senses in the same way.”
Hence Ravi’s approach to the streaming process was to find ways to make it more immersive “so that you are not just looking at a screen, so that it has more dimensions than that. You are never going to replace that actual experience,so what you have to do is do something different.
“With the film, you don’t want to try to recreate a live experience. You want to try to create something that is a piece of work in its own right. And now we have this newly-edited version, this more immersified film piece. I wouldn’t say that it is hugely different, but there are more layers to it, more subtleties. It is a lot more expressive.”
Tickets from Chichester Festival Theatre.