Bernadette Cochrane: Capitalising on the back catalogue: streaming theatre in the age of COVID.

In the twenty-first century, the rise of live-streaming theatre or broadcasting of live theatrical performances in cinemas is one of the signal shifts in or additions to cultural production. The ubiquity of the phenomenon has shifted theatre from being live local to live global. What distinguished it from other cinematic offerings was its liveness and its creation of a multiplex of communities. But COVID-19 closed theatres and cinemas, rendering audiences individually housebound. Going out was fraught or forbidden; staying in watching television or other types of screens was all. Theatrical performance then was remediated further onto the only screens left operating.                                                                      COVID-19 lockdowns revealed that, for many, the phenomenon is heavily imbricated in notions of cultural capital and production. COVID National cultural presences and absences were revealed. The phenomenon denotes intensifying international demand for cultural exchange and access. In that case, equally, that self-same phenomenon can be viewed as both as a closed system of cultural neo-imperialism and as a site of cultural homogenisation. The paper examines the global behemoth that is National Theatre Live, its geographical reach, and institutional aspirations and, by way of contrast, how ill-equipped Australia was to respond to the pandemic in terms of both content and infrastructure. This juxtaposition interrogates artistic self-sufficiency and reciprocity. Parsed through the lens of institutional dramaturgy, this paper proposes that theatrical livestreaming is both a site of soft diplomacy and a cultural complex in which localisation and globalisation co-exist but with little by way of mutuality and cultural exchange.

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