Reality echoes art in a new online play exploring isolation and identity after the death of theatre


Peter Oswald and Howard Gayton are in
the vanguard of a new theatre form, ‘cloud
theatre’, which offers a doorway through
disaster into the unlimited worlds of the
imagination, with a show that travels live
around the world in a single day!
‘Theatre is Dead!’ is an online live play exploring
themes of isolation and identity after the death of
theatre. Peter Oswald and Howard Gayton, fools
that they are, have taken their commitment to live
theatre to a new level. On Friday, 31st July, they
will perform this show online using Zoom – three
times over fourteen hours: at 7:30pm Sydney time,
followed by 7:30pm UK time and then 7:30pm
New York time.

Alice Welby is an actor who Howard taught at
East 15 Acting School in Loughton, Essex. She
lives in London but is currently at her parents’
home in Peterborough during lockdown. Alice
gives stage directions in the play so she’s not
seen as in a traditional role but Peter and Howard
have developed this role into a kind of character
with feelings, which gives another dimension to
the show.

The audience will arrive into a virtual foyer
where they can chat before the show. When the
lights go down and the performance begins, the
audience’s video links are turned off and their
sound left on. Being able to hear the rest of the
audience laughing really sets this apart from
recorded theatre. Afterwards, everyone gets
a backstage pass to discuss the show with the
actors and behind-the-scenes crew.
Peter Oswald and Howard Gayton created
Columbina Theatre in 2016 to present new works
rooted in verse theatre, mask theatre, Commedia
Dell’Arte, clowning and tomfoolery. Howard
co-directed a touring company, Ophaboom,
for twenty years. He lives in Chagford and

trains with the international Nomadic Academy
of Fools across Europe. Peter was writer-inresidence at Shakespeare’s Globe and has had
his work performed at the National, in the West
End, off-Broadway and at other international
venues. He is now based in Bristol, having lived
in Dartington until recently.
They had been researching and working on the
play over the last two years and at the beginning
of lockdown, Howard and Peter realised how
incredibly relevant it is to our current times.
‘Theatre is Dead!’ was literally played out before
their eyes, with the nation’s theatres all being
closed down and now unlikely to re-open until
next year. There are also elements in the play
about being lost, isolated and trapped and these
feelings have been only too familiar to many
during lockdown, what with being stuck at home
or in a box on Zoom.

Developing the play further for use on the Zoom
platform, Peter and Howard combined their
expertise to create a novel way for audiences
to have an immersive, collective theatre-going
experience from their own homes.
“It felt like, for the first time in ages, going out
for a night out.”
– Isabel, Hamburg
“The craziness had a contemporary edge to it –
and exploited the form brilliantly…I sense some
genuine chemistry between the two of you. Bravo
– one of your best!”
– Alexander, Salisbury
“Experimental? Yes! Full of entertainment? Yes!
Worth a look? Definitely!”

– Teri, Eastbourne
Columbina Theatre plan to raise funds to develop
a new technical platform specifically tailored to
the needs of theatre practitioners. It would enable
more creative flexibility and greater audience
engagement and could be used to host their own
and other companies’ productions. It would also
be a means for those new to theatre to get their
work seen, even after COVID-19 precautions are
lifted. Howard shared: “Perhaps this will be a
life-raft for theatre, taking us through these trying
times until we can all meet together in physical
space again.”
Visit to book
tickets and read more about the work of the
Columbina Theatre Company. Also follow them
on Facebook (Columbina Theatre Co.) and
Twitter @ColumbinaTheatr (without an ‘e’).

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