How can we use new technology in theatre?

Convener(s): Mark Grimmer (Fifty Nine Ltd)

Participants: Included… Emma Kelly, Katerina Pushkin, Fiona Watt, Matt Hill, Annette Mees.

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Technology on Stage:

Projection and Video

  • The impression remains that whilst improving, the use of video in theatre frequently remains superficial – a ‘bolt on’.
  • The use of video projection in place of set or even props (a projected table cloth for example…) seems lazy and rarely contributes to the visual aesthetic of the stage design.
  • Perhaps the key to successful use of video in theatre is integration. All the participants agreed that video design is most effective when conceived early in the production process.
  • Big white screens at the back of the stage contribute little to achieving an integrated video design.
  • There is still a schism between those with technical and those with artistic expertise. This often leads to the production of artistically interesting material which is poorly integrated into the overall work.
  • There is still a perception that the use of video can be prohibitively expensive, especially in fringe or independent theatre companies.
  • The experience of watching projected film sequences on stage is very different from watching live action. This can be distracting/confusing for audience.


  • Applying cinematic or televisual conventions in theatrical sound design could provide interesting results, eg the use of soundtracks, laughter tracks, surround sound.


  • The use of text messaging and Bluetooth to promote shows could be developed.
  • Cutting trailers of theatre shows is a useful promotional tool and websites such as YouTube provide an excellent way of extending the reach of marketing material.


  • The use of technology to involve the audience in controlling elements of performance would be interesting to explore.
  • Technology exists which allows actors to trigger multimedia content on stage –this can be incorporated into the performance and creates possibilities for real interaction.


  • Many directors feel in the dark about the possibilities afforded by recent technological developments.
  • Kit is expensive.
  • There doesn’t seem to be a readily accessible source for finding technological advice.
  • An opportunity to try out using technology in a workshop would be welcome!
  • Many shows that use technology become very self referential and become ‘about’ technology. The results are sometimes rather underwhelming.
  • Should there be a distinction between shows which ‘reveal’ the technological trickery in use and those which try to hide it? 

Suggestions / Conclusions

  • The formation of a ‘Technology in theatre’ forum would be very useful.
  • Approaching large corporations and asking to borrow kit can be a useful technique where the cost of hiring is too great.
  • Addressing the split between technological and artistic input could lead to a more productive ‘holistic’ approach.
  • Knowing what is technologically possible and affordable would be liberating for directors and designers.
  • Whilst the use of technology on stage doesn’t have to be incredibly costly, there is nothing worse than a near miss. Producers need to be prepared for the fact that using new technology in shows can take up a sizeable, but valuable part of a budget.
  • Using technology in theatre is less about wires, bits of computer equipment and gadgets and more about an approach which asks ‘What is possible, and can I realise my vision?.’
  • A workshop/roadshow which demonstrates the artistic possibilities of new technology in theatre would be valuable – seeing techniques ‘on their feet’ would be great.


I’d be interested in setting up a discussion group or event in the near future for people who want to learn more about how they can use technology in their work. If this sounds like something which would be useful, please feel free to email me on [email protected]