Thursday, December 13, 2012

'Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays' brings theatre lovers six decades of British theatre history

The theatre, the theatre, what's happened to the theatre? (Hey, it's Christmas season so why not start a post with a quote from White Christmas?)

Well, if you want to know what's happened to the theatre* in the U.K. you now have a brilliant new app thanks to The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A). Played in Britain: Modern Theatre in 100 Plays is one of those tablet apps that makes you wonder exactly what those tech writers are talking about when they dismiss tablet publishing. Are they downloading apps like this one? Probably not.

Built using the Mag+ digital publishing platform, this iPad app presents six decades of British theatre history – from 1945 to 2010 – and is filled with a ton of photography, audio and video content. The free app lets you sample the material, but a theatre lover will want to download the complete app, which when loaded on your iPad will take up a bit over 800 MB of spacer. The cost is $11.99 and is an in-app purchase. That price might seem steep by app standards, but have you gone to the theatre lately?
The app is introduced by Simon Callow – American audiences will recognize him immediately from the films Four Weddings and a Funeral and Shakespeare in Love, though he has long and distinguished career in the theatre having been appointed a 'Commander of the Order of the British Empire' for his services to acting in 1999.

"The app gives the V&A an opportunity not only to expand our audience, but to bring together our vast collections of photographic stills, audio-visual material and production photographs. All this is viewable in extraordinary detail, and in just a few simple swipes," said Malcolm Sutherland, responsible for digital projects and apps at the V&A.

The press announcement for the app from Mag+ gives an idea of what you will find inside:
  • over 600 images, including the work of acclaimed theatre photographer Douglas H Jeffery
  • embedded videos
  • audio clips and narration by the plays’ original cast members and other actors
  • click-through web browsing critic interviews
  • unique essays written by V&A experts
  • original first night reviews from the Guardian and Telegraph newspapers
  • original cast lists and interviews with cast members
  • long-form pages dedicated to each play
"We want to encourage more heritage organizations to capture new opportunities and new audiences through digital publishing," said Gregg Hano, CEO of Mag+. "The V&A has discovered that experimenting with Mag+ to create iPad apps not only produce beautiful results to be proud of, but gives more freedom, without the burden of costly resources."

The app is to be found in the Education category, but it would feel comfortable in Books (and Entertainment, too, I would think).

* For the sake of consistency, I chosen the British spelling of theatre. I thought about spelling it both ways randomly in this post just to mess with TNM readers, but then thought better of it.

This walk-through video is a bit different. Because so much material is contained this app, a description of what you will find seemed insufficient, and a standard two minute video would not do, either.

So, instead, what you'll see here is the promotional video from Mag+ that quickly tours the app, followed by a closer look at just a small – tiny, really – portion of the app.

Played in Britain is one of those app, like Above & Beyond: George Steinmetz or The History of Jazz, which showcases what the tablet platform can do.

For those looking into the Mag+ platform for use themselves, this is an app that will make an art director's jaw drop and ask "you can do that?"