We have collected here a selection of reports, diaries, and logs from visitors to our Illyria. Please consider adding your own accounts of your experiences at the bottom of the page by using the comment form!
“Donated and loved it. Food for mind and heart.” – Viewer from England
We were simultaneously connected and disparate, together-apart. It was strangely isolating; my overwhelming emotions were loss and loneliness. But that’s not a bad thing: good theatre makes you feel. This felt honest, and reflected the realities of lockdown. It reflected the moments we’ve all had when we weren’t doing Zoom cocktail hours and quizzes. It was the moments where we grieved for lost opportunities.Gemma Allred (Medium)
“This is revolutionary in the history of theatre and the digital arts. Although it took some time to get used to the entirely new attempt, I was captivated by the characters. Traditionally, a theatregoer is passive, but here they are expected to be active.” — Viewer from Osaka
“The ‘sets’ were so riveting, and the ‘story’ was so enticing and the characters were bewitching and beguiling!” — Viewer from London
“Performance will have this as a model for their productions for centuries to come.”Viewer from Toronto
“We needed to be active! Avant-garde? Interesting experiences…” — Viewer from Tokyo
“Brilliant individual performances. I wanted to visit with everyone. Coming back for the shows later today, and looking forward to the website version!” — Viewer from Wales
“I loved what you created and was especially moved by watching POC from around the world create in their own homes, sometimes in their own native tongue. It was a thrilling live theatre event–one of the best I’ve seen on a digital platform since the pandemic closed down live immersive performance. I look forward to checking out the website version!“Viewer from New York
“I felt like I was visiting a roller-coaster Shakespearean art gallery, choosing which paintings to hang on the wall every five minutes.”Viewer from London
“It was really fascinating, some interesting exploration of gender in there and a real sense of the different locations and characters’ inner lives.” — Viewer from London
“Reflects our world right now… thank you!” — Viewer from Japan
Thank youViewer from Japan
This is “the GLOBE”
Unfortunately I missed the live performance, but I did spend some time yesterday watching the recordings. Since then, I’ve been trying to process it all. It’s such a wonderful, fresh approach!
I personally wouldn’t compare it to choose-your-own-adventure style narratives if only because they have a kind of pre-set and pre-cast linearity that this didn’t seem to have. However, it did remind me of the feeling I had when I first encountered CYOA books—that feeling of discovering, not just a new story, but a whole new way of telling stories.
It struck me that I had watched (co-created? assembled?) a radically unique performance, a new modality even. This seems to combine formal theatre with the kind of intrusive, voyeuristic, unprocessed nature of YouTube videos and reality TV, and to take advantage of the freestyle way that YT-like platforms encourage us to jump around and sample various narratives.
I found it a very interesting way to explore the characters and imagine their interactions, relationships, and lives off-stage, in a very post-post-postmodern way (how many posts are we at now anyway?)
In any case, thank you so much for the thought-provoking experience—I look forward to the next one!Viewer from Tokyo
“Fantastic, thank you. Really innovative.” — Viewer from England
A meditation on public/private and the nature of theater. Beautiful.Viewer from USA
“Thought-provoking project with a lot of nuance and subtlety” — Viewer from the USA
“We don’t get to see inner exploration often. A new ensemble piece like this is really a treat to watch as a shared experience. Thank you for this gift of theatre!” — Viewer from Europe
“Really interesting seeing individual actors interpretations – the cultural choices and the world locations mirrored all the worlds a stage” — Viewer from London
“Innovative! I wonder if this is a similar experience to what goes on in the mind of a playwright when in writing, zapping through minds of the characters. My mind still excited”Viewer from Japan
“Exquisite capture through your art of Shakespeare’s intention and of life in Pandemic. The parallels are astonishing and beautifully articulated. Thank you so much.” — Viewer from Wisconsin
“This was such a unique and ambitious concept. A total reassessment of the role of audience in the age of digital theatre. What an amazing technical achievement and a fascinating insight into the distinctive devising style of each performer – and a new understanding of my habits as a viewer. There was an incredible sense of intimacy in this show, and that paired with the knowledge of the global connectivity and simultaneous action was rather disconcerting but fascinating! Interesting work. I look forward to viewing the second non-live iteration.” — Viewer from England
“That’s what I enjoy with any rehearsal process – the surprises. Now we are in the process of creating new ways of engaging with text than we have in the past. It is exhausting and exhilarating. While it’s a frustrating time to be an artist it is also full of possibility. Thank you for being part of what is new and possible.”
Prismatic theatre.Viewer from the UK
Wonderful! Innovative, active way of enjoying the theatre. Had 9 tabs open and zapping here, there, and felt more intimate to the characters than watching them on a stage performance.Viewer from Japan
Thank you for giving us a whole new experience.
Too excited, cannot sleep!
“Really fascinating experience!! Just finished this afternoon’s performance! Definitely one of those ones that keep you thinking long after it’s over! Just like Feste’s songs which are still going round my head! Brilliant work everyone!” — Viewer from England
“Bravo Ben Crystal & co. – haven’t been this puzzled, intrigued, engaged in live performance in a long time. One more show tonight. My tip: follow Orsino.” — Viewer from England
“Watching it now and hadn’t expected this level of enjoyment from simply seeing new places. Going into intimate spaces like bedrooms and bathrooms, city streets on other continents, bare rooms… all such a unique way of experiencing performance. And a reprieve from the pandemic.” — Viewer from Texas
“It was exhilarating because it really demonstrated how to think afresh about theatre post-lockdown and how we can build back better! I visited with #Maria (both) and #Feste and will be back for more!” — Viewer from England
“Supremely enjoying this inventive format. A choose-your-own-adventure (a la Punchdrunk) but entirely online, which means I can follow multiple characters at once who are streaming from all over the world – Japan, India, etc. Plus a Zoom lobby to chat with other audiences.” — Viewer from Ontario
“An amazing cascade of artistic responses and explorations of themes in Twelfth Night. I was transported across the world with some really beautiful uses of Timing bridging performances that formed connections while people were Together Apart.” — Viewer from Glasgow
I don’t know what to do with myself. Engaging with live, powerful theatre in covid time is amazing but the isolation feels extra jarring when it ends.Viewer from DC
I have seen so many things I wouldn’t have otherwise- the musical adaption of parable of the sower, sea wall, love is the message/the message is death, and now this *fantastic* what you will, but oof this after part is hard.
The funny thing is that before, i’d be grumpy if someone turned to me too quickly and asked me what I thought about it (hi mom!). I always need time to process it on my own. But now I’m here shouting into the void for another opinion.
Will be thinking about this for awhile.
“This was stunning. Beautiful and moving.” — Viewer from London
“Absolutely disruptive and intuitive experience. A global virtual congregation of practitioners and viewers in isolation. Congrats to cast & crew.” — Viewer from Argentina
“Justifies every syllable of the word-of-mouth buzz.Viewers from Whitby
I will be thinking about this for a very, very long time to come.
25 years of working with – sometimes making – performance for networked spaces curdled me into a skeptic.
I didn’t think I’d ever see an online performance that was genuinely any more powerful or affecting for it.
Tonight, The Shakespeare Ensemble you changed my mind. Bravo! Transformed shared time without shared place into a virtue, into content, into beauty.
Floods of light outdoors in (?) Delhi; boxed-in halogen-lit grid space in (?)Tokyo; such concise but eloquent and complicated scenographies.
The lesson of post-Punchdrunk immersive theatre – that spectators should author their own montage – transplanted with such grace that 50 minutes of screen time (far beyond my usual tolerance) flew past in complete absorbtion.
Those tiny, unique and unrepeatable glints of serendipity created by viewer-initiated jumpcuts and juxtapositions delight and disturb a thousand times more than a manufactured story arc.
Allowing wild sound (gravel underfoot, cloth billowing) & music space – arguably, centrality – was an heroic leap of faith, but the minimalism was in itself riveting.
And again, allowing the user to splice together their own audio world: inspired.
Just what a colossal privilege it was to exploresuch visionary and imaginative work. Humbled.“
Firstly, an apology, to all the wonderful characters I didn’t get to see. I started with Feste, as I thought it would be nice to start with music, and was totally captivated by Hazel’s “Maid on the Shore”. I don’t know how you play the accordion, so perhaps you need to open and close the bellows part of the instrument a few times before you can start, but whether you do or don’t it came across as breathing and sighing even before she started, foreshadowing what was to come. Such a beautiful voice and such clear and beautiful storytelling through song. I loved it so much I watched to the end of the song – then jumped to Orsino.
I came in at the part where he puts his gloves on, stretches and battles the balls being hurled at him, followed by quiet and the sitting down and taking out of the letter he has started to write to Olivia. It felt like he was attempting to drive Olivia out of his head in whatever way he could, in this case through distraction and physical exercise (which he still couldn’t do). I don’t know if you saw the BBC series of Pride and Prejudice (don’t ask how many times I have ;), but Orsino’s intense physical effort followed by thoughts of Olivia put me in mind of when Darcy is fencing in London and at the end proclaims “I SHALL conquer this, I SHALL” before heading to Pemberley and the famous “lake scene” (be still my beating heart) where he sees Elizabeth again. I then realised that time was ticking away fast, so I left Orsino and jumped to Olivia.
I then ran out of luck, as I could see Olivia blowing bubbles but couldn’t hear her – so disappointed – much swearing at wifi gods (as I’m half way up an Alp at the moment)! I loved her postcard though. I don’t know what Olivia’s personal interpretation of it was, but I found myself thinking this was probably what a heart/soul would look like if you could put it on paper. Little griefs – the hurts, disappointments, misunderstandings which we’re able to patch up either ourselves with self-adhesive tape, or with the sticky tape provided by others – a kind word/action, an apology, some love and understanding. Major griefs – the loss of a loved one, a trauma, serious illness etc where sticky tape isn’t strong enough and we need some heavy duty thread to stitch us back together again (self-help, support of loved ones, counselling). At the end of the day, you can still see the holes, the cracks and the joins, but hopefully we’re reinforced and made stronger along the way.
I then jumped to Malvolio, coming in as he was getting down off the chair on which he was standing. “Not a friend – Darkness – Light – What can be said? Nothing”. Looks in the mirror, finds a friend, shows letter. Mirror is turned around, loses friend. “Wronged – Abused – Command – Silence – House is dark (despite the fairy lights around his neck) – Fair – Cruel – Maid – Love – I Wish”. Heartbreaking! Really running short of time I jumped to Maria, thankfully just as she started to sing the “Wind and the Rain” in English and then Spanish. So lovely to hear it in the two languages and so sorry not to have seen more as I then … Ran out of time!
So I completely missed Andrew, Viola and Belch and I feel bad about that. However, I see that on the 15th all the performances will go on the website so, thank you for that, and I’ll look forward to watching everyone then.Viewer from Switzerland
3 thoughts on “Visitor’s Book”
Dear, beautiful Olivia: you made me cry. Olivia has always been a cardboard cut-out character for me—the wealthy woman in self isolation, behind the veil, able to give herself over to grief because she could pay for unconditional, female companionship and surround herself with a houseful of footmen and other staff. She was a character too ludicrous to be taken into account. You have given me an Olivia of flesh and blood, and you have done it through smarts. You knew exactly what you were doing, and your stream was great, and really enjoyable. Plus I love the way you synced up with Feste’s soundtrack, not only musically, but in “thought, word and deed,” so to speak. I am so grateful to have this reference for Olivia. Congratulations.
What a fantastic adventure it was! Compassion to each character was intensified through the camera. The two 45 min. Lives [I saw It twice] made me feel and think awful lot, as if looking at myself reflected in nine mirrors.
Funny thing is, although What You Will is quite different from TN performances I’ve seen before, I cannot help saying as usual: “Viola, drop him. Orsino is charming, but not the right choice for you!”
The actors are not under the influence or protection of a director. They work alongside the input and mentorship of outside eyes, but this is not the same thing as theatre direction. The personal investment and stamp of a director is absent, and each character is much much more the pure and visceral manifestation of an individual actor’s work. The unifying remedy that the director normally provides now falls to an ingenious format of livestream that we all subscribe to in viewing this production. Very unique. Each performance a human jewel.