Research Seminar, Wednesday 10th March 2021, 4.30-6pm (online)
Abstract: Since early 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has radically compromised the possibilities and contours of collective assembly in the theatre. This jointly authored paper explores the conditions of theatrical assembly in the times we currently confront through analysis of Ben Duke’s In a Nutshell (The Place, 2020). Filmed in the auditorium of the Connaught Theatre, Worthing, In a Nutshell stages a series of recollections about theatregoing to a future audience of people for whom live theatre has ceased to be a reality. Though a monologue in form and function, Ben Duke’s piece and its interpellation of its imagined audience is premised on a notion of and commitment to theatre as a dialogic space across time and distance, in which the bodies of spectators play a critical role. Our response to the performance is based on a socially distanced viewing of the performance we undertook on 22 October 2020, in which we watched the piece simultaneously on YouTube while present together on Zoom. We bring our reflections on the work and its reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic into relation with this experience of spectatorship. We ask how the interrupted dramaturgies of both the piece and our socially distanced spectatorship re-invoke acts of collective assembly in the theatre, rendered temporarily out of bounds.