Antonia Georgieva and Oliver McFadden are the co-writers and co-directors of Echo/Chamber –
Aslant Theatre Company’s digital Brighton Fringe debut.
Could you tell me a bit more about Echo/Chamber?
OM: Echo/Chamber is one of those shows you talk about one day making. Antonia and I had
been seriously thinking about adapting The Bacchae for ages before the Living Record
opportunity came up. We said yes and then had like a month to take the still slightly unformed
idea out of our heads, nail it’s wriggling form to a page, and find a suitable non-binary or gender
non-conforming actor willing to perform in it. It is the culmination of a short and ferocious
process and that energy is definitely alive in the play.
AG: In many ways Echo/Chamber was a bit of a risk – a deep dive into the unknown waters of
digital performance and crafting the best way to tell the story using the tools we have available.
But Echo/Chamber is also a good example of the kind of work we specialize in as a company: it
is an adaptation of a classic play; it is interdisciplinary and experimental in form; and it focuses
on bold storytelling and underrepresented perspectives. It’s quintessentially “aslant”.
How do you feel about going into the world of digital theatre?
OM: Nervous as hell. We’ve used some live streamed camera work in projects with another
company we are collaborators in but that has never been the primary medium to view the work.
I was doubly nervous as, because of producing considerations, I am not only co-writing and co-
directing the show but I’m also the co-star! I never imagined my first bit of scripted acting in 4
years would also be my first time in front of a camera.
AG: It’s equal parts exciting and daunting to be making our digital debut at this time. For the
longest time I had a resistance to impulse that has brought many creatives over to the digital
sphere over the past year. With this project it felt really natural once the idea had crystalized in
our heads. We knew interactivity was going to be at the heart of the experience we were
building, so the digital medium allowed us the freedom to explore that. Obviously live
performances are now also restarting everywhere, but I believe that digital – or rather some kind
of hybrid form – will really be here to stay, and there is an audience for everything.
What would you say the main challenges of creating a digital piece of theatre are?
OM: The digital bit, particularly seeing a theatrical script and performance through a lens.
Getting the balance between the two mediums is really at the heart of this experiment because
we didn’t just want to make a trial version of a real life play, instead we tried to actually work out
how this idea would exist specifically as a digital piece. But the challenge is part of the fun because some of the best discoveries as makers come when you’re outside of your comfort zone.
AG: For me the challenge comes from the difficulty to define things. If it’s digital and not on a
stage, is it still theatre? If it’s pre-recorded and not live, is it still theatre? It feels like these
questions have been percolating a lot in the world of digital theatre, and the truth is, making
digital work requires a completely different kind of skill set. The way we’ve overcome those
challenges though was to remind ourselves that in the end it’s all about the storytelling. Yes, our
means and tools might be different (I know a whole lot more about camera angles now than I
did a few weeks ago), but at the end of the day we are searching for the best way to tell that
story, and in this case it was to let the audience play an active part in shaping the narrative.
Why should people watch Echo/Chamber?
OM: Because it is enjoyable. I don’t necessarily mean laugh out loud funny, although we were
tempted to put together a blooper reel that really was laugh out loud funny, but that as a piece
that tries to smash together drag, poetry, queer romance, even a sprinkling of philosophy and
occasionally some rather fine acting (if I do say so myself!), it should have something for lots of
people to enjoy.
AG: Because it tells a resonant and powerful story about prejudice, family, and duty.
Echo/Chamber goes beyond what’s on the surface level of those big themes to uncover the
nuance through an unlikely love story. And ultimately, the audience has the power to decide
how it all ends.
How would you describe the show?
OM: Practically it is an interactive piece. So, our audiences get some repeated simple choices
as the play progresses that build until finally the choices really define how the play ends in quite
dramatically different ways.
AG: Putting the fate of the characters in the audience’s hands, Echo/Chamber is gripping, and
multifaceted, not shying away from making the audience reflect on difficult choices and the
agency they are empowered with both within and outside of the performance.
How does it feel to be part of the Brighton Fringe?
OM: Wonderful to be back. I directed something independently at the Brighton Fringe a few
years ago and it’s a shame I can’t make it down for the in person performances this year
because the vibe is just phenomenal. Living Record, our venue, has also been so fantastically supportive and that really feels like it sums up the spirit of Brighton Fringe generally but also this
year in particular: to lift each other up and champion theatre and the arts.
AG: This is my first time participating in Brighton Fringe, and hopefully there will be many more
to come! The beauty of digital performance is that it has opened up opportunities to connect
with creatives and audiences from all over the UK and the world, which is an incredible step for
us as a company. This is also one of the most supportive artistic environments I’ve been a part
of – there are so many incredible shows by outstanding artists at all levels of their careers all
brought together in celebration of the fringe.
By Emma Clarendon
Echo/Chamber continues to play as part of the Brighton Fringe until the 27th June.