British Council Gulf Stage project breaks ground for Digital Theatre
31 January 2011
A new innovative project launching online today (Monday 31st January) breaks new ground for the theatre industry by bringing Arabic performances to a world stage online and for free. Gulf Stage is the result of a unique partnership between the British Council, the UK’s leading cultural relations organisation, and Digital Theatre, a new London-based company who specialise in capturing quality performance authentically onscreen.
Digital Theatre worked with the British Council in Qatar to film and digitise theatre productions by companies from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE during the Gulf Co-operation Countries Youth Theatre Festival in October of last year. The six productions, which are subtitled into English, are now available online free of charge though Digital Theatre’s website: http://www.digitaltheatre.com/gulfstage.
Filmed in Arabic by a UK company, the digital element of the project has enabled the overcoming of geographical barriers, and provided strong cultural learning opportunities for theatre producers in both parts of the world. Gulf Stage comes at an interesting time for theatre companies and venues embracing the digital revolution, opening up the theatrical experience to new audiences in both the UK and internationally.
The project is the first time that Digital Theatre – who work with the UK’s leading theatre companies such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Almeida Theatre, English Touring Theatre, and the Young Vic - has worked outside of the UK to record theatrical productions. It encourages young people who might never have attended a live performance, but regularly use digital media, to experience the magic of theatre for the first time.
Brendan Griggs, Head of Drama and Dance at the British Council commented:
"This exciting project highlights how the British Council is responding to the changing landscape of the performing arts. Projects like Gulf Stage illustrate the innovative lead which the UK has taken in the digital arts field. Cultural content generated by Gulf Stage can now be shared, developed and distributed between partners, artists and audiences on different social media platforms, opening up rich cultural conversations on a global level."
The performances were taken to the Gulf through a unique partnership between the British Council, Qatar Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage (MOCAH), Centre for Cultural Development (CDC) at the Qatar Foundation and Digital Theatre. It followed a study visit to the UK organised by the British Council for its Qatari partners in May 2010 to meet UK theatre companies.
The recordings of a production were screened in Doha last December, during the final month of the prestigious Doha, Arab Capital of Culture programme 2010, and were showcased alongside an existing film of a high profile UK theatre production recorded by Digital Theatre.
Robert Delamere and Tom Shaw of Digital Theatre said: "Gulf Stage was an incredible opportunity for us to bring theatre from different cultures to an international audience via digitaltheatre.com. Being able to showcase the best of British theatre online was the starting principle behind Digital Theatre. Now, through working with the British Council on this project, Gulf Stage represents a very exciting international addition to our work and a significant step towards making Digital Theatre a truly global website."
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NOTES TO EDITORS
The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, sport and governance and last year we engaged face to face with 18.4 million people and reached 652 million. We are a non-political organisation which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2009/10 was £705 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £211 million. For every £1 of government grant we receive, we earn £2.50 from other sources. For more information, please visit: www.britishcouncil.org
Gulf Stage is one of a series of digital showcasing projects undertaken by the Drama and Dance Department of the British Council, following the successful Connected showcase in Tokyo last year. The British Council’s bi-annual performing arts showcase in Edinburgh will feature a significant digital element.
Launched in 2009 by Robert Delamere and Tom Shaw with the support of Equity, Musicians Union, and BECTU; Digital Theatre produces downloadable theatre productions filmed in front of live audiences for users to download or view on demand at www.digitaltheatre.com. Digital Theatre’s current partner theatres are the Almeida Theatre Company, the Bush Theatre, English Touring Theatre, the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, the Royal Exchange Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Young Vic.