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Act Three goes digital

Act Three members are making the most of video conferencing tech to stay connected and stay creative – here’s director Andrew McPherson to tell us more.

Q. How does it feel to be working with the Young Actors Company again this term?

I’ve been blow away and really inspired by all the youth arts organisations I work with in their determination to continue offering projects online.

I know from experience that it’s a huge challenge to make this happen, however WCTT is blessed with an amazing team of creatives who are always ready to innovate and respond to the world as it changes. It was clear in the response from our participants how internal the Young Actors Company is to their routine. There is nothing like having a weekly dose of their energy, commitment and creativity.

Act Three warm up – May 2020

Q. What are your reflections on Act Three’s unique performance of The Picture of Dorian Gray?

Dorian Gray was a huge challenge. Adapting one of Oscar Wilde’s most adored stories came with a mountain of pressure to get it right. The process definitely wobbled in a couple of places, but I was always reassured with the support and generous creativity of the WCTT family.

The hard work paid off. Our wonderful audiences relished in the strange and visceral world that Act Three and our brilliant designer, Davy String, created. There is nothing more joyful than watching young people get lost in their characters and giving it everything – and that they did. Beyond creating wonderful theatre, WCTT is a platform for education – we all learned a great deal in that process and I’m so grateful for the opportunity.

Act Three in their unique version of The Picture of Dorian Gray, New Wimbledon Theatre Studio, March 2020

Q. Did it feel strange to be performing in the midst of such difficult circumstances, with the coronavirus crisis gathering pace?

This virus has changed the world, there’s no denying it. Every day of the production week the news seemed to get a shade more serious and a lot more scary. It seemed to occupy a huge portion of all of our minds, not least in our participants who were not only rocking an ambitious production, but were preparing for really important exams, too.

As always, theatre gave us the answer. When you’re fortunate enough to have access to the arts, it offers a wonderful escape that is not only full of beautiful things and magical happenings, but also space to make a bit more sense of the world. It is so often fantasy that helps us grasp a stronger grip on reality.

The weird and wonderful world of Dorian Gray

Q. Post-lockdown, when did you first realise that running online sessions was the way forward? 

I’ve often said that I’d go a bit bonkers if I couldn’t make theatre and, truth be told, all of my income is from making theatre, so I knew immediately that I was going to have to innovate to survive.

My research started straight away. What are the best platforms? How could we make it work? How could I avoid losing all my income?

I was hugely relieved when I learned WCTT had the same spirit of determination. I’m now regularly working with over 300 people on a weekly basis – including setting up a brand new company called HIGH10 Theatre Company, for 18-30 year old actors, writers and musicians.

Q. How are the digital sessions going so far?

We’ve been using Zoom to access our session and it’s really great. It allows us to share videos, scripts, images and research really easily. There are breakaway rooms for small group tasks too so, in planning these session, it’s actually not too dissimilar from a regular session. It’s also means the participants have instruments, costumes, props, devices at hand and a whole bunch of locations that we’ve not being able to play with before.

There have already been discussions of how useful it has been and how we might continue to use the platform post lockdown

We’re creating a short film, shot on smart phones, in isolation, and, I confidently suggest, it’s going to be great.

But you get Act Three together in any capacity and you’re sure to be in for a great time. They are an absolute joy to work with. They are such a get-up-and-go group who are ready to throw everything they’ve got at any challenge you serve them.

My favourite moments so far have been watching their first attempts at acting for camera and realising that our idea for this term is going to work. The shots they’ve filmed so far have been beautifully pitched, sensitive and really thoughtful. Any Act Three parents or carers reading this – you should be really proud!

By the end of this term we’re aiming to share an amazing short film that will hopefully have you feeling a bit more connected and together during this time of separation.

As ever, we’re being really ambitious and looking forward to hearing what you think of our first venture into film.

Watch this space to see Act Three’s first foray into film!