June 20, 2007


Beckett and Shakespeare have been the most widely-referenced playwrights in online theatre productions. So it’s not surprising that both feature in the 070707 UpStage Festival – a festival of live performances on Saturday 7 July, online and screened at the New Zealand Film Archive in Wellington, , from 2pm to midnight NZ time.

"Hamnet is generally recognised as the first live internet performance, staged in an IRC channel in 1994," says UpStage project manager Helen Varley Jamieson. "The same group followed up with PCBeth in 1995, and in 1997 Desktop Theater performed Waitingforgodot.com in the graphical chat environment, The Palace."

The latter performance is famous for the unexpected arrival of Godot. "The rules are different online – there is a sense of being outside the confines of traditional theatre. Anything could happen, with a little imagination."

Well-known texts are popular in cyberspace for many reasons. "Shakespeare offers great opportunities for word-play, while Beckett’s writing style is strikingly reminiscent of chat-room dialogue. And if your audience is already familiar with the text, the technological leap is easier to make," says Jamieson.

The 070707 UpStage Festival marks the release of UpStage version 2 – a web-based online performance tool – and features Samuel Beckett’s Come and Go and a devised performance called Ophelia_machine. This show, referencing Heiner Muller’s Hamletmachine which is based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, will be performed by a trio who are located in New Zealand, the UK and the Netherlands.

Other performances are by artists from Canada, Germany, Belgium, Finland, Serbia, Australia, the USA, UK and New Zealand. Information about the thirteen shows is available at www.upstage org.nz, including links to find local performance times.

Avatar Body Collision, the creative group behind UpStage, will perform Come and Go as faithfully to Beckett’s script as possible. "Beckett was very particular that his directions be followed to the letter," says Jamieson, "which is an interesting experiment for us, as previously we’ve always devised our work. But the script works very well in UpStage."

070707 UpStage Festival will be screened in Wellington at the New Zealand Film Archive on Saturday 7 July, from 2pm to midnight New Zealand time; online audience members participate by following links on the UpStage web site, www.upstage.org.nz.  

The development of UpStage V2 has been funded by the Community Partnership Fund of the Digital Strategy, with sponsorship from CityLInk, MediaLab and Auckland University of Technology.

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