Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

"Digital Theatre” & the Sensory Deficit

Theatre in Wales: Comment

One Year Anniversary , No Live Events , March 23, 2021
Theatre in Wales: Comment by One Year Anniversary “From this evening, I must give the British people a very simple instruction – you must stay at home. Because the critical thing we must do is stop the disease spreading between households.”

That was the Prime Minister in a direct television address on 23rd March 2020.

It was the culmination of a month, indeed a season, of strangeness. January 31st saw the last agonised end of the United Kingdom in Europe. February was beset by floods, the first part of March the steady closure of society. Civil society made its own decisions before that of the government.

On 10th March 60,000 people were permitted to attend four days of the Cheltenham Festival. As it happens a once--child in my own street has worked for years at Gloucester's main hospital. The hospital was overwhelmed, infection raged through the medical staff.

March 11th was budget day and the Commons was packed. The rate of infection was at 100,000 cases. On March 16th Wales' first death occurred in Wrexham Maelor Hospital. On 16th March too the theatres of Wales were closed. There is no imminent date when shared places of performance will re-open. A member of the main scientific advisory group gave an opinion on the Marr Show of 21st March that the prohibition on close contact activities may have a year or two yet to run.

On 16th March, last week, Creu Cymru launched a campaign to mark the one-year anniversary of no performance. Its title was “#WeMissYou #HiraethuAmdanat”. To mark the anniversary Wales Arts Review published an article on the subject of “digital theatre.”

It spanned two areas, human physiology and the erroneous linkage of stage to film.

The article, link below, assessed the workings of the biological eye and ear.

“The [camera] lens, silicon-based, is immobile; its field of view is restricted, its image form rectangular.

“The eye, that is carbon-based, is a roaming globe with a two hundred and seventy degree span. Its capacity for data receptivity is vast, its measure in gigabytes beyond an artificial sensor. And we have an advantage. We are binocular where the camera is monocular. The carbon-based brain rewards us with richly textured representations of the environment rendered in three dimensions.

“Design in theatre is made for this ocular reception in real space. Design in film, at its peak in an Ophuls or Douglas Sirk film, is composed of a small number of receding planes. The camera flattens perspective.

“Our physiology for hearing is not that of the microphone. Packet switching was invented by an undervalued man of Wales, an engineer from Treorchy. Packet switching featured one Sunday in 2020 in a radio interview with Trevor Cox, Professor of Acoustic Engineering at Salford.

“Cox explained why Zoom sessions make for hard work. Digital transmission uses packet switching for vision and voice data. Like it or not, said Cox, our perceptual apparatus was never designed for sampling, the micro-interruption of voice. Zoomery works well enough as a simulacrum- for information- but real-world vocalisation comes through the oxygen-hydrogen mix that sustains us. It is not a sample but a continuous wave. Our ears are built for its continuity.

"So too, said Cox, silence is different in the digital sphere. Absence of speech in the chemical-biological world is integral to meaning. Silence is the correlative of the word. The pause in noise gives the perceptual freedom to look at everything else that matters, the myriad visual cues we are hyper-alert to. Master comedians are above all masters of the pause. Within the digital simulacrum silence does not contain meaning. It is just an absence of data.”

The illustration is taken, with appreciation, from “Eye of the Storm.” Theatr na nÓg and Swansea Grand Theatre toured in autumn 2019. The illustration gives a suggestion of the dense composite stage image that was made by all the artistic contributors. The image conveys its information competently. It suggests but cannot recreate the sense of emotion that was to be felt in the being-there.

The editors at Wikipedia assess its article on “digital theatre” as “this article has multiple issues...written like a personal reflection.” It contains nonsense like “digital information has the quality of pure computational potential, which can be seen as parallel to the potential of human imagination.”

It is entirely lacking in reference to human being, our biology or our physiology.

My own article on "digital theatre" may be read at:

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

back to the list of reviews

This review has been read 339 times

There are 53 other reviews of productions with this title in our database:


Privacy Policy | Contact Us | © keith morris / red snapper web designs /