Physical objects and props play a major part, with them placing their domestic tables and chairs to exactly line up with those in Cézanne’s painting so they can appear to truly inhabit its virtual space. Games are played, with balls being thrown and rolled across the table to one another, although they all seem very difficult for the other to catch … Playing cards are dealt and are miraculously picked up by the player opposite, and wads of banknotes suddenly appear as the stakes are raised. As the competition and tension mounts, things turn ugly as a weapon is produced and the argument begins to get physical.
Techniques and solutions
The Creation Theatre actors revel in the challenge of achieving the impossible by creating the illusion of physical conjunctions between themselves, their props and the virtual setting, despite being many miles apart. They use a mix of ingenuity, sleight of hand and comic slapstick, but like absurd Samuel Beckett characters they seem destined to try and fail, and try and fail again, but better. The two remote actors constructed identical green-screen sets, complete with matching green tables and camera angles, seating them at opposing positions across the virtual card table. Using a Google Chrome browser they connected to a vMix host where they were chromakeyed together and relayed to an audience via YouTube Live and Zoom.
Reflections and outcomes
Creation Theatre used the opportunity of their Telepresence Stage residency to experiment with the paradoxes and potentials of how the physical can interact with the virtual in ‘third space’ telematic theatre. They reported it as eye-opening — feeling like they were discovering an entirely new medium, and experimenting with it exuberantly to discover its ‘magical’ possibilities in much the same way that Georges Méliès and the early cinema pioneers did over a century ago.