Armagh Theatre Group Zooming in ‘Social Bubbles’

If success were measured by the amount of fun you have with a project then I declare Armagh Theatre Group’s  Zoom-plays a triumph even before the second one, ‘Social Bubble, Toil & Trouble’ goes out live on 19th, 20th and 21st November 2020.

The writers of the play, namely Malachi Kelly, Tim Hanna and myself, are not a necessary component of rehearsals, but the producer, Margery Quinn lets us sit in on the Zoom rehearsals, muted with our camera off – proverbial flies on the wall. It’s a new way to do theatre in these ‘COVID times’ with everyone at home but connecting through their laptops, tablets and phones. I’ve got so used to it, I feel like I have Armagh Theatre Group in my living room a couple of times a week, and the craic is ninety.

While we watch the cast falling about laughing after a goofed up line, Malachi texts me – ‘They’re having far too much fun!’

I pick up my phone, too lazy to text back, and he answers on the first ring. We joke about sacking them for enjoying themselves too much – the biggest laugh is that we haven’t got that reach! But we both agree that even if no-one watches our play, we’d have accomplished something, that watching eight people having a blast in times like this was worth the effort of writing the play in the first place.

One of the actors, Felim Rafferty, who plays Dan, shares his experience of the new Zoom regime that Armagh Theatre Group has undertaken:

Zooooooooming!

By Felim Rafferty

My first thought, this will be too fast for me, both physically and technologically. Besides, why on earth introduce a speeding concept at a time of global slowdown?

Need not have worried, of course. Especially after employing the services of the baby zoomers generation who easily and with ill-disguised condescension soon had me up and running, but at my own pace.

Hey, this was going to be a dawdle after all……………………….hold on, what do you mean I have to learn the lines, surely I can just read it can’t I? Well no actually you will have to commit to memory, this is not a rehearsed reading darling. Remember the 3 Ps, Perseverance, Punctuality and Punctiliousness.

So, I have to learn lines whilst paying attention to taking myself in and out, making sure I am not muted or alternatively a disembodied voice, should I look straight into the camera or at my fellow participants??

AND by the way, we are going out live. Not recorded, no luxury of another “take”, it has to be right on the money on the night. No pressure. I always considered myself to be game for a challenge, was this maybe a step too far?

Seriously though the sense of togetherness nurtured by this fellowship of the acting community had an almost tangible quality even in the virtual world of zoom. When we look back at our achievement in the face of unprecedented and ongoing adversity, we can be proud of that thespian spirit that pervades our very being. An indomitable determination to turn calamity into success by simply keeping going, not allowing resolve to be dimmed, finding and embracing a novel medium in order to breathe new life into the world of the arts.

Methinks, perchance, my initial fear of Zoom was Much Ado About Nothing.

We were also delighted when BBC Radio Ulster picked up the unique nature of the Armagh Theatre Group’s new production, and it’s global reach, last night for Evening Extra. Have a listen – we’re on at 1 hour 54 minutes into the show.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000nsh4

As for having nobody watch the show – our fears are unfounded. Tickets are already selling well and are available online…

If you wish to book a place for Thursday 19th November go to
https://tinyurl.com/SocialBubbleNov19
If you wish to book a place for Friday 20th November go to
https://tinyurl.com/SocialBubbleNov20
If you wish to book a place for Saturday 21st November go to
https://tinyurl.com/SocialBubbleNov21

For more information check out the Armagh Theatre Group website where I pinched this quote (from Tim Hanna, I think) because it made me chuckle and links nicely to Zoomeo on YouTube:-

“Finally, for those of you who missed Zoomeo & Juliet during July (can’t believe there are many), we have posted one of the live performances on YouTube which you can watch ABSOLUTELY FREE!! (the treasurer has fainted…)”

Byddi Lee