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Into The Woods Screening, Regents Park Open Air Theatre – Review

Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Timothy Sheader
Hosted by Digital Theatre
Pros: We can see a show from 2010 and create a new live event around it. The atmosphere was very fun and personable with a lovely array of guests.
Cons: Limited connection with the other audiences watching in other locations. 
Our Verdict: A very fun way to revive a revival, I see screening parties becoming more popular.
Courtesy of Digital Theatre
Ever felt frustrated that you don’t have time to make a show? Can’t afford it, can’t get there, or you heard about it too late? Digital Theatre are a company that are solving all your problems by recording and screening productions. I was invited to their first ever Screening Party and it was a lot of fun! The production was Sondheim’s musical Into The Woods from 2010. Into The Woods cleverly takes several children’s fairytales and weaves them together into one plot in one place; the woods. Having so many familiar tales, for example, Rapunzel gives it a nostalgic and magical feel yet the show retains adult interest in the way it slots the tales together and in its very real-world consequences and modern morality.
The venue and their customer service is part of the theatre experience too. When you’re at a screening party, you have the combination of the filming creatives’ interpretation, venue and tone on top of the production company’s choices. The atmosphere created at the screening was one of levity and in keeping with the fairytale theme. Bunting, a picnic spread of sweets, and wine of course. I’m quite excited about screening parties because of their ability to set the tone. It was a small gathering of perhaps 20 people creating a a very personable atmosphere and tea party decoration. It was a joy to talk with several members of The Sondheim Society as they were clearly passionate about the production. This is the clear benefit of these types of select events.
I’m not sure to what extent the Digital Theatre team worked alongside the producer’s team but the quality of the filming was impressive. This isn’t film however, so you won’t get the massive close-ups or clever cuts, but then that isn’t part of the theatre experience. Occasionally the lighting levels weren’t quite right, but I wasn’t robbed of seeing anything because there wasn’t a camera pointed the right way. Although there was a death that became accidentally comical because it was more close up than an audience would be in a theatre.
Detracting from the experience was the lack of connection for the audience due to the emotional distance of the screen. I feel it could have been a 5 star show for me if I had been in the live audience at the time. The separation caused a lack of depth of emotional attachment although I suppose if I had been watching alone from home, I probably would have been checking Facebook or making tea. The event was aimed at being one of many screenings joined together by Twitter. I felt no kinship with the other audiences and it did feel like a missed opportunity. Those who weren’t using Twitter would have felt even less of a connection as there was no place to say hello to other audiences or even know how many other parties there were or their locations.
As musicals spend a lot of time considering things through song, this was an easy show to tweet along to. I didn’t find it too appealing though. There was a lack of other people in the conversation and replies that did start to form were mainly superficial comments, myself included. This did try to enhance the feeling of community, but didn’t add depth to my experience. More people watching and tweeting could perhaps have solved this. The hashtag was completely flooded with images of Meryl Steep as the witch and the excitement by the twittersphere.
Overall, this was a delightful setting, show and people. It won’t replace theatre, but is certainly a good alternative if you can’t attend. There are areas to be developed, such as what to do about the programme, creating more camaraderie across screenings, and a more visible twitter presence. I think parties such as this will allow people to see more theatre and encourage new audiences. Screenings won’t replace theatre anytime soon, but there are certainly a high quality and fun alternative, especially as new audience groups are created.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Into The Woods at The Regents Park Open Air Theatre finished in 2010.
You can watch it and other shows at home or in cinemas by visiting www.digitaltheatre.com

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