GODA's Mike Kaiser shares his own experience of adjudicating online.
When the local festival that I was meant to be adjudicating at the beginning of November was cancelled, I contacted the organiser to offer help. I knew he was keen on IT so was not surprised to learn that he was planning a virtual festival.
In September, I had already seen an impressive array of entries at Spelthorne - I think 17 in all. Some of the best were exceptional with effects that would have been difficult to achieve live on stage. On the other hand, the camera liked some actors more than others and in particular was harsh on those trying too hard; even more so on those who needed a script close by.
Although I did send in my comments on what I thought were the three strongest entries, that was purely as a friend of that festival so I've no idea if they were used. With the Belfrey in Wellington, organiser Brian Hughes wanted to set up more of an official adjudication.
The first discussions were on Zoom but the later performances and adjudications were on twitch.tv - new to me. The first three youth plays were pre-recorded so I was able to watch them at leisure and then contact Brian to pre-record my responses too. Then on Friday night, all three plays followed by my comments were broadcast to the general public. That was quite stress free, even though it felt like a part of a Monty Python sketch as I was in full suit and tie adjudicator gear to the waist but with my gardening trousers on below that.
The adult play on Saturday night was back to Zoom and was to be broadcast live with my response live immediately afterwards also live, exactly as we normally do in the theatre. This did not go to plan as my attempts to join the Zoom meeting met with no response. The play did go ahead and I could watch it. So the best answer was to send in written notes almost immediately to be fed back to the actors.
The play was about a pub quiz team preparing to enter a competition, discussing tactics and warming up with questions. It was eminently suitable to the split screen format and it is obvious that where there is a need, the void will be filled by enterprising playwrights. I remember seeing live a few years ago a youth play about a teenage chat room where sinister forces were at work. Very powerful it was too and you can imagine that more plays such as that will appear.
An odd detail, especially with youth plays where the actors are often in their own rooms, is that lighting levels vary a great deal. One's eye is naturally drawn to the faces that are well-lit and away from the moody gloom of some rooms. It is of course vital to be in character when off line as the watcher can scan around the different screens at any time. I suspect many of us do that with stage performances in any case but here it is more apparent. Finally, any suggestion of a script discreetly to the side is anathema.
So - anything is better than nothing and it's good to see imaginative people working so hard to keep theatre alive. For us, it can be either stimulating or nerve-wracking according to how well technology works or how at ease with it you are yourself. I am pretty hopeless so rely on others. In recompense, there is the possibility of adjudicating in your slippers - as long as your top half is smart !