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4th Jul, 2022

DREAM: RSC's new interactive virtual play - is this the way forward in future audience experience?

Catherine Vonledebur 8th Feb, 2021 Updated: 10th Feb, 2021

DREAM – a cutting-edge new RSC online performance combining theatre and gaming tech – will allow audiences worldwide to directly influence the live event.

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) in Stratford-upon-Avon, is collaborating with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra to stage 10 live performances using motion capture from Friday March 12 to Saturday March 20.

Set in a virtual midsummer forest, this live 50-minute performance is inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and is the culmination of a major piece of cutting-edge research and development (R&D).

It builds on the technology used in the RSC’s 2016 production of The Tempest, harnessing live performance, virtual production and gaming technology performed with seven actors in a specially created performance space with an LED backdrop at the Guildhall in Portsmouth, supported by a University of Portsmouth team.

Dream also features two contemporary orchestral works – excerpts from Gemini, the latest composition by Esa-Pekka Salonen, the Philharmonia’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, and Ärr, composed by Swedish composer Jesper Nordin.

The music was recorded by the Orchestra, conducted by Salonen on Friday March 13 last year, the last full-scale orchestral recording, involving 100 players, before Covid struck.

Audiences will experience a new performance environment easily accessed on their mobile, desktop or tablet via the dream.online website.

The performance uses the latest gaming and theatre technology together with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors’ movement during the show.

RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran said: “What’s brilliant about Dream is the innovation at play.  An audience member sitting at home influencing the live performance from wherever they are – that’s exciting.

“It’s not a replacement to being in the space with the performers but it opens up new opportunities. By bringing together specialists in on-stage live performance with that of gaming and music you see how much they have in common.

“For instance, the RSC’s deep understanding of scripted drama combined with Marshmallow Laser Feast’s innovation in creative tech brings thrilling results.

“The story is king, whether you are a gamer, or an audience member.  Stories haven’t changed, but the way we engage audiences with them has.  Shakespeare was our greatest storyteller and it’s brilliant that we get the opportunity to use one of his plays to discover what could be possible for live performance.”

Dream was originally due to open in spring last year as an in person and online live performance but during the pandemic it has been recreated for online audiences while theatres remain closed.

One of four Audience of the Future Demonstrator projects in the UK, this pioneering collaboration explores how audiences could experience live performance in the future in addition to a regular visit to a performance venue.

It is part of a major research project led by i2media research at Goldsmiths, University of London and NESTA, which includes looking at the potential for making similar online performances financially viable for the arts sector.

All findings and research will be shared with the wider UK cultural sector in 2021 after the live performances.

Audiences can either choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part or watch the performance for free. Booking opens today (Monday February 8) here #DreamOnline21

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