This year Leda Douglas has been involved in the digitalisation of theatre content.

With the move to create more theatre content for the online space Douglas starred in Creation Theatre Company’s live digital theatre productions of Alice in Wonderland: A Virtual Reality and The Time Machine.

Since graduating from Oxford School of Drama in 2019, Douglass’ theatre credits include starring in Jodi Gray’s Shudder at Soho Theatre and the UK tour of Gameshow Theatre’s one-woman show Nuclear Future.

This winter, Douglass continues her foray into digital theatre, starring in Iris Theatre’s The Snow Queen: An Online, Storytelling Adventure, an interactive Christmas show using innovative new technology by loom.ai, and a downloadable activity pack to enable families to actively participate through the live-streamed show. 

We spoke to Douglas about performing live shows digitally and how she feels about the new technology she’s been working with …

Please introduce yourself…

Hey, my name’s Leda Douglas, I’m an actress and ex-dancer. Since graduating most of my work has been in short films and a variety of theatre.

What word or sentence best describes your life right now?

A rollercoaster.

You very recently graduated from the Oxford School of Drama. What’s it been like to have the beginning of your career coincide with a year in which companies have had to so substantially adapt the way in which they create theatre? 

As much as I miss the thrill of a real live audience, I’ve actually enjoyed adapting to a digital form of theatre. It’s one of the reasons I love this industry because we’re so creative at finding new ways to create work. There are moments I wonder how many opportunities I’ve missed out on due to the current climate, but being in and out of work comes with the territory, especially when you’re starting out, so, in that regard, things haven’t changed much really.

This year you’ve worked repeatedly with Creation Theatre Company on both their digital shows, The Time Traveller and Alice. Is there anything you prefer about digital theatre in comparison to the live in-auditorium theatre we were previously accustomed to?

Well, it feeds my inner-nerd getting to play with tech for digital performances. And as people can tune in from anywhere we had audience members from all over the world. We even got featured on NBC News! Which I thought was pretty cool. It’s also great to be able to strip out of sweaty clothes and hop in a shower as soon as the shows over!

I can imagine one of the most difficult things about digital theatre is maintaining the energy required in a performance without having an audience physically present or other actors to bounce off. How do you maintain the kind of energy required to keep younger audiences engaged when performing digital theatre?

You can still feel the energy of the cast and that sense of camaraderie, even over a Zoom call, and that motivates you. Each show has been very interactive too, which you can see the kids love. Other than that I make an extra effort to get out of the house so I can switch off and avoid screen fatigue.

Let’s talk about your upcoming performance in Iris Theatre’s The Snow Queen: An Online Storytelling Adventure. This show incorporates loom.ai technology, which effectively creates real-time 3D avatars. Have you found this technology difficult?

I need to exaggerate every movement to create the desired effect, but not too much or the program won’t pick anything up. So it’s a bit of a balancing act.

What kind of possibilities does using this technology open up?

I can play multiple characters in quick succession as we can easily switch between live characters and avatars. For me, it’s a fun challenge and hopefully a more immersive experience for the audience.

These days there’s so much technology available at the fingertips of theatre companies, which leads to debates about how far it is desirable to embrace the possibilities of technology versus a Brechtian desire to entirely strip productions back. Where do you sit in regards to this debate?

I think there’s room for both. Technology presents exciting, current, and actually more accessible ways to engage with theatre, but when it’s all about gimmicks you can lose touch with good storytelling. I don’t mind if it’s one actor in a black box theatre or a huge production with screens all over the place, as long as the storytelling is good.

The winter seasons of theatres are often particularly magical, and I’m so glad that Iris Theatre has found a way to continue their winter season regardless of lockdown. What do you think is most magical about The Snow Queen?

It definitely has that magical feel we all love at this time of year; it’s a fairy tale filled with mischievous characters, lots of interaction, and even song. It also has a beautiful message about love.

Have you got any other upcoming projects you want to tell us about? 

Nothing yet, but there are talks about doing some in-auditorium theatre in the New Year.

Getting to Know you …

  • A book you have to have in your collection – Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
  • A song / album that defines the soundtrack of your life to dateFighter by Christina Aguilera
  • A film / TV show that you will watch whenever it’s on repeatedlyLord of The Rings (any one of them)
  • The first play you saw and what it meant to you / and or reminds you why you’re in this business – This is hard… Okay, I’m going to go with the more recent play Small Island by Helen Edmundson. Making people feel as alive and seen (even at the back row of a huge auditorium) as I felt watching that play is something I will always strive for.
  • What’s made you sad, mad, and glad this week: Sad when I didn’t hear back from any of the jobs I auditioned for the previous week; Mad for the same reason. Glad that I am surrounded by loved ones and having fun preparing for The Snow Queen.

Find information and how to book tickets for The Snow Queen: An Online, Storytelling Adventure here.