Network: My Technology - Drama in sharp focus; my technology

Jude Kelly, artistic director of the West Yorkshire Playhouse, explored an emerging strand of theatre when she created the new multimedia stage production Deadmeat using her Sony digital video camera
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The Independent Culture
I have been interested in the development of multimedia theatre projects for a while, but it's a hard thing to do. First of all, it's multi-disciplined. It's also expensive. And to get clarity of narrative in a multimedia context is difficult: you are layering many different effects, and if you get the layers wrong, it ends with confusion.

However, my digital video camera helped make Deadmeat a feasible project. I had initially intended to use the camera for the personal logging of my work but realised it could also be a fantastically quick, cheap but focused way of putting drama on film.

I also discovered that, as a director, a camera in my hand gave me an immediacy to the subject matter: you are seeing it, and if you are recording a human being, you are able to communicate with them and the camera image at the same time.

When I commissioned Q to create a piece of stage work around his book Deadmeat, we discussed how it could be communicated on stage. The book is about the impact of technology on modern life. We decided that the style of the piece should be club culture. In other words, it uses mixed forms - music and video, as well as graphic imagery.

The project has raised questions. It changes audience perception. For instance, if you are staging a particularly emotional and dramatic scene, you can film it, but will the audience have the same emotional involvement as they would if they could watch the live actor on stage?

It was a different experience for the actors. In a normal rehearsal period, they get a finished script, and they start at the beginning and work through to the end. But because Deadmeat includes film, we also had a film schedule. The actors were working on two acting processes at the same time - which is quite demanding. You also spend a lot of time editing and looking at images.

In so far as qualifying the merit of multimedia theatre, it's a strand that will develop as a natural part of theatre work, and won't mean abandoning straightforward, text-based work. It's worth remembering that The Wooster Group was experimenting with multimedia 20 years ago. Robert Lepage is an expert, as is Robert Wilson. What also interests me about the advent of the digital camera is that it means an increase in the number of people who have access to film and documentary making. There will be an explosion of experiments with multimedia.

I would like to think that as well as the club audience for Deadmeat, the traditional theatre audience will be in attendance. Deadmeat has a visual narrative which will appeal to young people. However, it is also an interesting story that examines the relationships of humans to technology. The main thing is that people enjoy themselves.

`Deadmeat' is at the West Yorkshire Playhouse (0113 213 7700) until 5 June

Interview by Jennifer Rodger