The OnComm is the Off West End Commendation which aims to recognise excellence in online theatre work. This award was introduced in May 2020 in the light of the lockdown arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Following over 350 submissions and over 120 awards being made it was decided to group the shows into a number of categories and then select finalists and winners for an online ceremony on February 21st, 2021. This can be seen on official OnComm partner Scenesaver’s website (click here). The event is free to view but you will need to be registered. As part of the build up to the big evening, I’ll be focusing on each of the OnComm categories in turn and previewing the four finalists in each group.
By its very nature this is the most difficult category to define simply because being innovative means that a step has been taken away from simplistic classification and into the realms of the, as yet, unclassifiable…. And in one sense just about everything that happened last year with online theatre could be classed as innovative because so much of it simply had not been tried before. There were many shows that pushed the boundaries in terms of either form or content – sometimes both – and new technologies came into play, all of which helped to promote the notion that theatre was finding new ways to do things; this is certainly the case with the four finalists which all brought something original to the table.
For Quality Purposes The interestingly named Birmingham based group, Stan’s Internet Café (definitely pronounced caff) came up with a short piece which examines the role of calls centre handlers in the modern world – particularly important when, for many, they may well be the only source of human contact. Inhabiting a seemingly dream like virtual world they have some of the answers at their fingertips but increasingly the questions become more left field and the generally cheery responders have to start being inventive. Quite apart from spotlighting an unusual subject, the ambient feel is strangely both calming and compelling; it almost becomes hypnotic or like a relaxation tape. The play is still available here and my full review is here.
Snowflake: Visual EP Basically this show is an extended trailer for a musical that is still in development and has been put out to generate interest while the more usual channels are closed down. As such it amply demonstrates imagination and inventiveness in dealing with a very difficult situation for those trying to get a foot on the ladder. The “E.P.” is presented as four songs written, and in two cases performed by, the talented Lewis Cornay which cover subjects such as relationships, virtue signalling and avocados (really!). The show extracts are still available to view here and if you fancy getting in at the ground floor with this then please go here. My review is here.
Truth to Power Café This highly unusual show from Jeremy Goldstein and London Artists Projects started life live onstage but has been reimagined for a digital audience with some compelling use of video. A combination of personal/confessional and political theatre which examines power at various levels, it certainly isn’t a play in the regular sense of the word, so much as an opportunity to stir debate even if only with oneself. Viewers can become participants in the bigger project of which this is a part by leaving their own videoed response to the question “Who has power over you and what would you say to them? The piece is still available here and you can read my review here.
What A Carve Up! It took no less than three theatres working together in tandem to put this very well received piece together: Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield, New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and The Barn Theatre, Cirencester. And they can be very proud of the results which introduced a new form of theatrical/audio/video hybrid in what virtually amounted to a brand new performance form, high on invention and quality. The play is Henry Filloux- Bennett’s revisit of Jonathan Coe’s acid satire on the greed is good ethos of the 1980s with the original protagonist’s son now trying to clear his father’s name and encountering an all-star cast along the way. The show is currently not available (bring it back, please) and my full review is here.
Hope you can take some time to have a look at these and read the reviews before the big reveal on February 21st. Good luck to all nominee finalists.
A full list of all the OnComm finalists can be found here
Further information about the OnComms (including how to submit a show for consideration) can be found on the Off West End website – click here
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