Watching along: #MuchAdoOnScreen

Last night I spent a good part of my Valentine’s Day evening watching Digital Theatre‘s filmed version of Josie Rourke’s 2011 Much Ado about Nothing, better known as the David Tennant and Catherine Tate Much Ado. The film has been available to me for several months now through my university’s Digital Theatre Plus subscription, which means that all students and staff have access to a large selection of the DT catalogue — kind of like a theatre version of Netflix.

But I was prompted to watch last night because of a ‘watchalong’ organized by DT for viewers around the world. At 7pm GMT, we were invited to press play on the Much Ado recording and to watch the production in sync with one another, tweeting our thoughts as we went. What really interests me about this, and the growing phenomenon of watchalongs, is the sense of ‘eventness’ and shared experience that they offer to viewers. Most of us are sitting at home on our own in front of a computer, but we are doing so with a wider community of viewers spread around the country and to some extent world.

Looking through the tweets from the evening, I spotted Twitter profiles from various parts of the UK, France, Germany, the United States, the Philipines, Australia, and I’m sure several other places that I haven’t yet caught. More than a few profiles noted a love of Doctor Who and David Tennant himself, suggesting that although this is a geographically disparate community, it is also one with a distinct and unifying set of interests.

I also noticed a few moments in the evening in which new people joined in and asked where we were in the production, so that they could log in and fast-forward to the appropriate section — I love the fact that people specifically wanted to watch together, that this experience of ‘theatre going’ was of course about seeing the production, but also very much about doing so with others and experiencing a sense of liveness and synchronicity. In a weird way I’ve had that sense when I’ve unexpectedly caught a favorite movie on TV, and have decided to drop everything else to sit down and watch it then, even in some cases when I also own the movie on DVD. There’s just something more compelling about watching it in that moment, when I know others are doing so at the same time. Is that completely strange, or have others ever had that feeling too?

Below are some of the tweets from the evening, chosen by me rather quickly for a variety of reasons — to show the kinds of things people like to share, to show the technical issues they may or may not experience during a watchalong, to show where in the world they are watching from, to show the details in the production they’re noticing. If you were part of the watchalong too, I would really love to hear from you in the comments below.

Why did you decide to join in? Did you tweet as well as watch? Why or why not? Would you participate in a watchalong again? What do you like most about them?

Any and all thoughts very welcome!

(PS–At the moment I’m still trying to figure out how to properly embed the Storify feed! I think I need a plug-in… For now the link below will take you to it.)

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