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Notre Dame (Online) Threedumb Theatre

Notre Dame is the latest digital production by Threedumb Theatre, live-streamed from The Space in Canary Wharf, London and directed by Stephen Smith, albeit due to a few technical issues on my part I ended up watching it on catch-up a few days later. There are a few peculiarities that make this production different from other streaming performances I have seen:

Notre Dame. Jack Hesketh Photography.
Notre Dame. Jack Hesketh Photography.

1. It is streamed live and completely digitally, there is no live audience in the theatre and no traditional stage. The play moves freely from inside The Space to the streets surrounding the venue in a seamless way.

2. It is filmed on a smartphone, but do not be put off by this, as the quality of the video and audio is astonishing, we probably do not fully realise how powerful smartphones can be when used for something more than watching cat videos.

3. As it is filmed on a light and easy-to-move-around device, it is a very dynamic video stream: the audience is taken in the middle of the action, with the smartphone moving around the actors, and giving the impression of being an active part of the story.

The play takes place in 1482 Paris and tells the story of Esmeralda (Maria Masonau) who is running away from an angry mob that accuses her of the murder of her paramour, Captain Phoebus. Esmeralda finds sanctuary inside the church of Notre Dame where she meets a gargoyle called Stryga (Lizzie Burder). Esmeralda is also searching for Quasimodo (Gary Duncan), the hunchback of Notre Dame, who helped her to escape from the mob. Quasimodo, in the meantime, is arrested and put on trial for the same murder and found guilty as he refuses to speak. But the archbishop of Notre Dame, Frollo (Duncan Riches), intervenes to vouch for Quasimodo’s innocence, saving him from a likely death. Through a series of flashbacks and the chat between Stryga and Esmeralda, we learn a bit more about Quasimodo, how he was abandoned as a baby on the floor of Notre Dame and his life growing up as a ward of Archbishop Frollo. We also discover a lot more about the archbishop’s darker side.

While the story based on Victor Hugo’s masterpiece has been told countless times and is known to most people, I still find it very gripping and modern, with many themes still relevant in our current society. It is acted beautifully by the cast and well directed, very dynamic and you really feel as if you are in the middle of the action. I rather enjoyed the slick video production, and it is commendable that Threedumb Theatre is experimenting with (relatively) new technologies to push the boundaries of theatre and make theatrical productions available to an ever-increasing number of people that due to financial circumstances, geographical locations, or other circumstances would not be able or willing to travel to a London theatre.

4 stars

Review by Fabio Ghiotto

‘Notre Dame’ is an online ‘promenade digital theatre’ event: shot in one singular take and streamed 100% live for an at-home audience.

Paris, 1480s. Esmerelda is seen pursued by a merciless mob. Covered in blood, she flees the scene of a murder and claims sanctuary within the stone walls of the Notre Dame cathedral. Inside, she soon becomes trapped in a triangle of obsession and control between the perverse priest Frollo and his bellringer assistant, Quasimodo.

Writer: Stuart Crowther, after Victor Hugo
Director: Stephen Smith
http://www.threedumbtheatre.com/

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