Gideon Turner and Emma Gibson in The Lamellar Project. Photo by Alex Harvery-Brown
Set in the year 2038, the play tells the story of two married scientists separated by an ocean, in a world on the brink of an environmental crisis. Performing in two different countries in real time and connected by live-streaming video technology, Perfect Blue features Harry Smith as Michael—projected from London onto the stage at Christ Church—and Emma Gibson, Tiny Dynamite producing artistic director, who portrays Carys and performs live at Christ Church.
In advance of the premiere, we asked Gibson about the process involved in creating the work. “From a directorial standpoint, [Perfect Blue] takes us into a fascinating no man’s land between film and theater,” she says. “There is so much to be said simply with the distance between two bodies on a stage, but for this play, we can’t rely on that. Due to the immense physical distance, we have to communicate the stages of intimacy between the characters focusing on individual body language, distance from the camera or screen rather than the scene partner, and most of all, on the small, wordless facial reactions the characters have to each other's lines.”
Gibson says the attention to those intimate details played out in directorial choices from the very first rehearsal. “I proposed cutting a line, and our director David O’Connor agreed, [saying] ‘Yes, Harry Smith’s character is so tuned in to his wife’s expressions, he'd just see that response on your face.’ We hope the audience connects to those little moments, too. It is an unique performing opportunity afforded by this technology.”
The Skype technology used in the play also offered “unexpected creative inspiration,” Gibson says. For example, “when the characters in the play are struggling to communicate, we are able to use technology to reflect that—making a Skype call freeze or disconnect,” she explains.
Visual thinking helped to inspire several dramaturgical aspects of Perfect Blue. As a story set in the future after the “sixth great extinction” with sophisticated scientific ideas, Gibson says, “The creative team have had to imagine how this world looks, creating environments in both a war-ravaged UK and a high tech, omnipotent US. This has absolutely illuminated the dramaturgy of the costumes and both sets, especially exploring the war’s timeline as reflected in the deterioration of the UK set.”
The project has encouraged Tiny Dynamite to actively consider how new media may reinvent theatrical experiences for contemporary audiences. Gibson believes that technologies like live video-streaming can offer contemporary audiences “what set change machinery, the stage trap door, and the spotlight did for audiences in past centuries: ignite our imagination, and bring spectacle and wonder to the very human experience of watching another person tell a story onstage,” she says. “Live streaming and projection are a vital part of this new tool kit, allowing small scale theater companies, like ours, to collaborate internationally, and reach new audiences.”
Perfect Blue is produced in association with British theater company Pursued By A Bear and written by G.S. Watson. All performances are scheduled at 3 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. to accommodate the international time difference.