British company 1927’s show Golem blends handmade animated feature film with live theatre. Photo: Bernhard Miller There is something reassuringly analogue about theatre. Bodies in real space. Events in real time. Audience and performer in the same room, breathing the same air. For many people, a night at the theatre is the antithesis of our modern digital life. But increasingly, theatre-makers are exploring ways in which new digital technologies – particularly in animation and projection – can be used to enhance and expand the theatrical experience. At the forefront is the British company 1927, whose latest show, Golem, premieres in Sydney this week. The recent Les Miserables production was staged with animations of Victor Hugo’s own paintings to powerful effect. Photo: Supplied 1927’s work is about ‘blurring the boundaries’, says the company’s producer, Jo Crowley. ‘When we create a show, essentially we are making a handmade animated feature film at the same time we’re devising a live theatre show. The two things are developed at the same time. It’s a constantly evolving thing. Script and story and visual aesthetic all evolve simultaneously.’ Drawing on the Jewish folktales of a man who creates a slave from clay, Golem explores the relationship between humankind and the technology it creates and comes to rely on. The world is created in animation, claymation, digital projection and live performance – a seamless visual experience that defies pigeonholing. ‘It’s the layering of technology that interests us, not the technology itself,’ Crowley explains. ‘The desire is to make a live filmic experience. It’s not a design choice. It’s our artistic reason for being.’ The National Theatre’s War Horse used digital animations of charcoal sketches to convey time and place. Photo: Supplied Golem, which premiered in Europe in 2014, took writer-director Suzanne Andrade and animator-illustrator Paul Barritt and their teams 11 months to devise. ‘We have to rehearse everything to within an inch of its life,’ Crowley says. ‘In some ways, a show like Golem is very high tech but really, we rely on old-school analogue choreography to make it work.’ Digital technology has had a profound impact on the theatre in the past two decades. In 2007, the British visual effects company Knifedge won an Olivier Award for its groundbreaking use of projection technology in a production of Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George, which amazed audiences by bringing Georges Seurat’s painting A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte to life. Golem’s world is created by animation, claymation, digital projection and live performance. Photo: Bernhard Miller The National Theatre’s production of War Horse, seen in Sydney in 2013, made innovative use of digital animations of charcoal sketches to convey shifts of time and place. The recent production of Les Miserables used animations of some of Victor Hugo’s own paintings to powerful effect. Ghost the Musical, which is about to open in Sydney, uses a blend of state-of-the-art projection technology and old school stage illusions to create the two worlds of the living and the dead and allow, for example, actor Rob Mills to walk through a seemingly solid door. Last year, director Kip Williams collected a Helpmann Award for his production of Tennessee Williams’ Suddenly Last Summer, a staging that blurred the divide between film and theatre-making. Kip Williams’ production of Suddenly Last Summer blurred the line between film and theatre-making. Photo: Brett Boardman Directors have always been drawn to new technology to expand the possibilities of the theatre, Williams says. ‘There is the misplaced opinion that the theatre is being overly influenced by film and TV with screens on stage and cameras and so on. But I don’t see it like that at all. It’s all down to how theatrical the implementation of the technology is, not the technology itself.’ You know when high technology is being used well in a production when the audience doesn’t notice it, Crowley says. ‘We have media servers and laptops going all the time and there are about 680 film cues in the show. But what is really happening is right there on the stage between the audience and the performer. Everything we do is looking to make that exchange.’ Golem plays from March 16-26 at Roslyn Packer Theatre, $50-$55. Ghost the Musical plays from March 18 at the Theatre Royal, $64-$134. Source.