The first time I have heard of “Remote Theatre” was in the summer of 2020 when I took part in a “Remote Theatre Taster Course” organised for English teachers by Nick Bilbrough and the Hands Up Project. The Hands Up Project is a charity trust that connects children around the world with young people from Palestine. It took place on Zoom platform and offered teachers the opportunity to learn but also practise different techniques of this innovative genre of theatre. In 2021, teachers and students had the chance to participate in “The 2021 International Lockdown Theatre Competition”. It was a collaborative, intercultural remote theatre online event with participants from 15 countries.
In the project, teachers from all over the world were linked with a partner teacher from Palestine. The competition was open to 11–15-year-old learners of English, enthusiastic about drama and using technology. The plays were chosen from the book “Welcome to Earth and other plays” – a collection of five-minute “remote theatre” plays created and performed by Palestinian children.
The online meetings and rehearsals took place twice or three times a month on Zoom platform. Making use of different features available on Zoom such as: the use of green screen/virtual backgrounds, sharing computer sound, hide non-video participants, recording etc., was essential to the success of the plays. After two months of work, the plays were submitted and uploaded on youtube and later a panel of judges decided the winners who were announced during an online special event.
The winners impressed the judges with the very creative use of camera, excellent use of gesture, facial expression and movement, sound effects, clarity of delivery etc.
But what exactly is “Remote Theatre”?
“Remote theatre is an exciting new genre of theatre that is being used to help learners of English to rehearse and eventually perform plays that they have created themselves to audiences around the world. It provides an opportunity for young people who have probably never even met anyone from another country to be heard and understood outside their immediate environment, enabling them to find a space where they can practice English, interact spontaneously, and share something of who they are and what they want to say in an interesting and very motivating context.” From “A Framework for Remote Theatre” by Haneen Jadalla (IATEFL Voices November 2020)
Using “Remote Theatre” in the English language classroom offers multiple benefits to learners. Firstly, it creates an environment for intercultural dialogue which is very important nowadays. Secondly, it develops creativity and imagination which can be personally and linguistically liberating. Moreover, it increases motivation in language learning having a positive impact on improving the speaking skills.
To sum up, “remote theatre” offers students of different cultural backgrounds the opportunity to collaborate online and send a powerful message to the world through the voice of their characters while using technology.