MONDAY 25 JANUARY 2021 THISWEEKCULTURE.COM
ATHENA STEVENS: LATE NIGHT STARING AT HIGH RES PIXELS
I've been looking forward to 'Late Night Staring At High Res Pixels' ever since I heard that it was to be broadcast digitally via Finborough Theatre. It's a play - or a story - that is to be delivered in short instalments all through February and which focuses on issues of consent.

To find out more about the series, and about the acclaimed creator behind it, I spoke to writer and performer Athena Stevens about the show, her career, and coping with COVID.

CLICK HERE to read this Caro Meets interview.

Daily episodes of 'Late Night Staring At High Res Pixels' will be released via the Finborough Theatre YouTube Channel as part of #FinboroughForFree from 1-28 Feb, and a full film will be available from 1-31 Mar. See this page here for more info.
With full-on COVID restrictions still in place, this week we are tipping the best in digital culture from across the UK - including online shows from performers and companies we first discovered at the Edinburgh Festival.


THREE ONLINE FESTIVALS>>

Open Online Theatre Festival | 1-6 Feb
If we want to be optimistic about it, one of the good things that's emerged from this dire pandemic is the growth and development of online accessible culture, and I get quite excited when there are whole seasons and festivals to have a go at. There are quite a few going on this week and - in this section - rather than picking single events, we're just going to go ahead and tell you to take them in as a whole. Starting with the Open Online Theatre Festival, which offers a mixture of performance and panel discussions covering the sort of stuff you need to know when you are creating work for digital consumption, so this should be compelling viewing for those working in the creative industries. The discussions look really promising, and the performances very alluring... so read more about them and book your tickets here.

Right Here Festival | 29-30 Jan
The Right Here Festival is a celebration of creativity and creative people in Crawley in West Sussex, put together by producer Louise Blackwell and lead artist Sinéad Emery. It promises a two day event packed with spoken word, poetry, talks, dance, photography, film, cookery and more. Some of it you kinda need to actually be in Crawley for - like a light exhibition designed to be "discovered by passers by in a location in Crawley" - but the vast majority is online, lots of it has flexible access times, and there are events for children as well as the content aimed at adults. To read about all the different events going on, see this page here.

Manipulate Festival | 29 Jan-7 Feb (pictured)
"Experience boundary-pushing visually led performance and animated film, broadcast direct to your home. For the first time in 2021, Manipulate presents a digital performance programme spanning puppetry, visual and physical theatre, animated film, aerial and contortion, alongside workshops, social events and discussions". Another fab sounding line up here, with a broad range of events to be experienced live or on catch-up, featuring established Scottish and international artists alongside newer creatives. Artists in the line up include Manual Cinema, Ariel Doron, Sita Pieraccini, Snap - Elastic, The Lonely Sailors, LARDS and MegaHertz. More here.


THREE MUSICAL THINGS>>

The Last Five Years | Southwark Playhouse | 29 Jan-14 Feb
"Jason Robert Brown's Drama Desk Award winning musical, 'The Last Five Years', is an emotionally powerful and intimate show about two New Yorkers who fall in and out of love over the course of five years. The musical's unconventional structure unfolds as Cathy tells her story in reverse, from the end of their turbulent relationship, whilst Jamie tells his story chronologically from the spark of their initial meeting. The two characters meet only once, at their wedding in the middle of the show". We recommended this back in November when it was streaming for a few days, and now that it's going to be available for a bit longer we thought you might like to know about it, if you didn't manage to catch it the last time. Expect good things. Read more about it here.

We Ask These Questions Of Everybody | Sound Festival | 29 Jan (pictured)
This one is actually from another online festival, which could easily have fit into our festival tips selection. However, my attention was initially drawn to this particular festival programme by this specific event, so I am going to let it shine, whilst urging you to have a browse through the rest of the festival's line-up too. 'We Ask These Questions Of Everybody' by Amble Skuse (music) and Toria Banks (libretto) is an opera drawing on real life experiences of disabled people in the UK to expose the mental, physical and social pressures faced by the disabled community, and their experiences under austerity. It sounds amazing. Read more about it here, and find listings for all the other events happening as part of Sound Festival here.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical Live-Stream | 30 Jan
Not sure if I really need to go on to you too much about why you ought to tune into this particular streaming treat, because I know we have recommended online shows from this brilliant musical improv troupe on a number of previous occasions, in our London and online coverage as well as via our Edfringe publication ThreeWeeks. But you know, it's late January, it's cold, it's grim, there's nothing to do and nowhere to go, and I suspect lots of you are probably in need of the kind of jollity the Showstoppers offer. Head this way to book yourself in.


THREE THEATRICAL THINGS>>

The Little Wars | 1-14 Feb
"France, 1939. Tensions are high. The booze is flowing. War is coming. The coolest women on earth are having the what-if dinner party you always imagined. Together they'll drink, scoff and face their demons. Someone has a secret. All of them have confessions. Join Agatha Christie, Gertrude Stein, Dorothy Parker, Alice B Toklas, Lillian Hellman and more for the dinner party of your dreams". You may have seen this production of Steven Carl McCasland's 'The Little Wars' - given that it already had a run back in November, and that it features rather big names like Linda Basset, Sophie Thompson, Juliet Stevenson and Sarah Solemani - but it's entirely possible that it passed you by nonetheless. If it did, here's your chance. Click here.

Soldiers' Arts Academy Showcase Live-Stream | The Space | 30 Jan
We love a showcase here at TW Towers, and this one sounds rather promising. This collection of international work is the culmination of the first International Ten-Minute Play Competition organised by the Soldiers' Arts Academy, for work written by military veterans or their families and with a military theme. Six were shortlisted and are to be performed as staged readings by a small acting company comprised of members of the Academy. Stories covered include those of a military wife struggling to cope with three children and the disappearance of her husband; a US soldier who has been deployed to Vietman; and the relationship between two young army couples who are neighbours in married quarters. Read more and book here.

Flight Paths | Extant (pictured)
You're probably well aware of the work of Extant, the leading theatre company for visually impaired artists. So you might be pleased to hear that 'Flight Paths', their multimedia production inspired by the secret history of the Goze, blind female travelling performers of medieval Japan, is currently available to take in online. This new digital version of their 2019 stage production is an interactive reworking and it sounds fab. "With the Goze as your guide and narrator, create and navigate your own pathway through story, music, aerial movement and integrated audio description, to encounter unique reflections on travel, blindness and migration". Access it here.


THREE MORE ONLINE THINGS TO TAKE IN>>

How Can We Care For Each Other | The Place | 27-30 Jan
Um, yeah, this is kind of another festival really, and would not have been out of place in our festivals section at the top. But this one didn't actually have the word festival in its name, and also describes itself as the first in a series of "spring weekenders", and it's a smaller number of events, so it does feel slightly different. Anyway, enough excuses from me about why it's here, let's talk about how interesting it sounds. There are audio works, dance films, a live online interactive performance and a movement workshop to avail yourself of, all with a unified theme: "Drawing lessons from 2020, this programme explores how we care for each other through artistic and creative responses, hoping it helps sustain and support us through the challenges ahead as we move into the new year". Click here.

Save The Bill Murray | from 29 Jan
Back before the pandemic hit, we regularly recommended that you see shows at London comedy venue The Bill Murray, because, well, it's a great club that hosts a lot of great comedians. 'Save The Bill Murray' is a mockumentary sitcom that is described as a thank you to those who have supported The Bill Murray through the lockdown, and it's available exclusively to the venue's Patreon members. The good news is that you can become one of those Patreon members, of course, if you are not one already, and avail yourself of fortnightly episodes featuring James Acaster, Maria Bamford, Adam Buxton, Nina Conti, Jamali  Maddox, Arthur Smith and Tim Key. Become an Angel Comedy patron here.

Quest For Old Mother Redbeard | Funnelwick Limb | from 28 Jan (pictured)
Beginning this week is 'Quest For Old Mother Redbeard', a free and ground breaking augmented reality story game, which uses the sort of technology used in things like Pokemon Go. It's the work of poet Murray Lachlan Young and Orbital's Paul Hartnoll, who have used said technology as a tool for storytelling for families and young people. It's a new element from an existing "multi-platform story world" of The Chronicles of Atom And Luna. Find out more about this and how to play from 28 Jan, and read/take in previous Atom and Luna project 'Tales From The Forest' here.


THREE CMU PANELS AT INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK>>

The Grass Roots Live Music Ecosystem | 26 Jan
OK, one last festival for you, promise. This week is Independent Venue Week, which - like the other festivals featured here - is staging an online edition this year for obvious reasons. There are lots of great online gigs being presented by venues across the UK, alongside talks and panel discussions. That includes three panel discussions presented by our sister publication CMU which we ought to mention! The first looks at how the live music community has come together during COVID-19, and how that kind of collaboration could continue once the pandemic is over.

Access To Arts And Culture - How COVID Drove Long Overdue Change | 27 Jan
This panel looks at how the disabled community has been asking for more digital access to arts and education for years, and yet it took COVID and a worldwide shutdown of live entertainment for the industry at large to embrace such a thing. "Of the live-streamed shows and platforms that have really gained momentum this year, which are truly accessible to all, and how can the experience be further enhanced? And how can we ensure such accessibility is maintained after the pandemic?" Artists, venues and other experts discuss.

The Future Of The Live Community | 28 Jan
This final panel is the future gazing one. "While there may be light at the end of the tunnel as the COVID vaccines are rolled out, the live music industry is currently still in crisis mode. How can the community continue to work together to mitigate the impact as COVID restrictions extend? And looking beyond the pandemic, what will the live industry look like when it returns? Will the rise of live streaming and other new digital technologies change the live music experience and the live music business forever?" Agents, promoters and other industry experts discuss.

You can find out more about all these panels and book free tickets here. And check out the full Independent Venue Week programme here.
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