Interview with Zoe Seaton

Later this month the Big Telly Theatre Company’s atmospheric digital production of Macbeth will open at the 58th edition of the Belfast International Arts Festival (BIAF), Ireland’s leading contemporary international arts festival. I caught up with the theatre company’s founder Zoe Seaton to find out more.

How did you first get involved in the arts?
The Riverside Theatre was opened 5 minutes from my house when I was about 12. My whole family became involved – my dad, an architect and an inventor, designed sets, my mother made costumes and my brother got into the technical side. A gang of us (including Jimmy Nesbitt, Mark Carruthers (BBCNI) and Briana Corrigan (The Beautiful South) started our own youth theatre called Upstage Downstage and we were absolutely obsessed with making our own work. 

Can you tell me a little bit about your production of Macbeth?
I’ve directed the full play twice before, both times with Creation Theatre Co, once in the BMW plant in Oxford and before than on an island on the River Cherwell where the witches abseiled out of the trees. Brilliant effect, until one of their costumes got caught in a tree and they had to be cut down. This feels like a really exciting story to tell on this platform. We’re really interested in the extent to which we can create an atmosphere which pervades your home – so that the whole thing feels like an experience you’ve been part of.

What can audiences expect?
To be surprised. To be unnerved. To be at times invited to enter the story world and at other times to be urged to turn your camera off and hide in the shadows.

How do you go about transforming such a classic play into an online production? 
Lots of mulling and reading the text again and again and thinking and chats with the inspirational people on our creative team – Crissy (producer), Giles (production manager) Sinead (stage manager) Ryan (designer) and of course choosing a cast who are not only brilliant actors but bold and resourceful theatre makers. We’ve also been really lucky to work with Martin Collett (Channel 4) who’s helping us explore new ways to vision mix story-worlds.

What challenges have you faced, and how have you managed to overcome them?
Ensuring that we are making great theatre and not cheap film whilst embracing the opportunities of the platform. Making sure we effectively channel the charisma and nuanced performances of the actors. Making sure it feels live.

Do you think that online productions will continue even when theatres re-open?
Definitely! We’ve had such amazing responses from international audiences, from people with accessibility issues, from people who just prefer to engage with interactive theatre from the comfort of their own homes. It won’t replace live theatre, but I think it will certainly hold its own as a new artform in its own right. 

What would you like your production of Macbeth to achieve?
I want people to feel like they’ve been on a rollercoaster ride of emotions and to open whet their appetite for more theatre in all its wonderful incarnations.

Macbeth headlines the Belfast International Arts Festival. Booking link from 14 – 17 October at https://belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/macbeth/ then transfers online from 21– 31 Oct – to Creation Theatre. To book visit www.creationtheatre.co.uk or call 01865 766266.

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