An updated version of the Noah’s Ark story told with an environmental message and a feminist twist live via Zoom! That describes the recent production of Mrs Noah Fights Back! from Untamed Productions.
It was an ambitious project, but it worked brilliantly, and I thoroughly enjoyed the performance I saw [April 17]. I asked Poppy Abbott, who directed and played the title role, for her reflections: what are the challenges of presenting a live performance on Zoom? How about remote rehearsals? The music?
“I was so happy with how the production went,” she told me. “Even though we were only in rehearsals for a short amount of time, it was a long process of working out the logistics of putting on a production over Zoom!
“I had such a hardworking, talented and enthusiastic team behind me, which made everything much easier. I had originally thought the production would be a play with some music, a bit of singing and guitar or ukulele here and there where April De Angelis’ script says ’they sing,’ but with the genius help of Alice Wolff-Whitehouse and her team (Stefan Taylor and Loris Scarpa) it turned into a musical, much to everyone’s delight!
“Zoom, however, does not enjoy its participants trying to collaborate musically, which was an obstacle we quickly realised we had to overcome. Well, Alice already knew this, but she humoured me and let me try several things as I kept claiming ’there must be a way!’ After soon realising there really wasn’t a way, we had to think outside the box. We settled on everyone recording their individual harmonies, which Alice mixed into her tracks and everyone individually recording themselves lip-syncing, which I used to edit together the music videos. Although it’s not what I originally envisioned, I feel the cheesy music video vibe really added something to the production!
“Although Zoom really isn’t a replacement for live theatre or in-person connection, it allowed us to be creative and offer an alternative to just watching the television. The use of breakout rooms was handy during rehearsals as we could go into different rooms and do some character and chemistry work.
“So although we weren’t physically in the same room, we tried really hard to build relationships and onscreen chemistry. One thing we found though, is that the screen order the actors could see was often different to the audiences’ view, so when things had to be passed in a particular order or hands reaching into another screen, there was a bit of guessing work! This also meant that cameras had to be switched on in a particular order and we had code words if someone accidentally dropped out or if anyone’s internet connection went – which thankfully it didn’t!”
If you missed the live performances, Poppy told me, you can still see it.
“The great thing about Zoom is we could record all our performances, so it is still available to watch! Tickets are £3 and can be purchased from www.untamedcommunity.com/productions There is also an option to donate or sponsor us to support our future productions.”