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From Zounds! - to Zoom: A brief, personal history of close encounters with ‘The Computer’.

Updated: Feb 1, 2022

Once upon a not-so-very long, L-O-N-G ago, together with a small band of fellow teachers-in-training, I was beckoned into a tutorial with a kind of almost ritualistic gesture more usually extended in welcome at a religious ceremony. Our tutor spoke in hushed tones; clearly, a hidden secret was about to be revealed.

“Today”, he confided, “we are going to show you something special…”

A silence befell the assembled initiates. The Master continued.

“It’s ‘a computer’ and, one day,” he prophesied, “we think all schools will have one…”

During the years that followed, as wiser folk developed transferable skills whilst getting to grips with the mysteries of Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Crash Bandicoot, I preferred to waste time cutting my teeth in Manchester’s emerging Fringe Theatre scene, and maintained the steadfast conviction that nothing good would ever come of these new-fangled machines.

Flash-forward to strange days indeed, and a calendar full of eagerly anticipated gigs is wiped out.

‘The Computer’, however, now sufficiently sophisticated to have an ability to track ’n’ trace my interest in performing Shakespeare from cued-parts, dutifully presented me with the Shake-scene Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Patrick Tucker’s course ‘Secrets of Acting Shakespeare’ had introduced me to the approach a couple of years earlier, and I’d been looking for an opportunity to apply this ‘Original Practice’ in my own work.

Following an email exchange (thanks, computer!) with Shake-scene HQ, W14, I would soon be brushing up my Shakespeare and developing previously unimagined computer know-how together with a whole theatre company of new friends. I still have to pinch myself to remember we’ve only ‘met’ in virtually reality.

With a series of Zoom workshops and the entire ‘Hollow Crown’ canon scheduled, this year, I need never employ my new-found computer skills in pursuit of the elusive Bandicoot.

Mark Cassidy

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