The RSC isn’t the first theatre company to create a digital experience combining gaming technology with live theatre. Les Enfants Terribles, Swamp Motel and Darkfield are among those to have successfully delivered lockdown productions that fuse these entertainment genres. But for a repertory theatre company of the RSC’s stature to embrace such experimental technology to bring to life a show is exciting.
Dream was originally scheduled to run as a live immersive production this spring at the RSC’s home in Stratford-upon-Avon. While reimaging such a technical production for the virtual sphere has been a huge undertaking for the company, it’s not the first time artistic director Gregory Doran and his team have experimented with virtual reality. In 2016, the company’s hi-tech production of The Tempest saw actor Mark Quartley attached to motion sensors in order to conjure a vision of the sprite Ariel hovering phantom-like above the stage – to breathtaking effect.
While Doran could not have foreseen that in five years time, such technology would prove a wholly necessary way of bridging the gap between auditorium and an audience trapped at home because of a global pandemic, the success of The Tempest most surely gave the company the confidence to draw on such technology again.
Photo credit: Stuart Martin
Of Dream, Doran told the Observer: ‘What I love about this potential for an interactive experience is it’s not the play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it’s the world of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ adding: ‘If that makes you want to read or watch this play, then that’s great.’
As such, don’t expect a fully fleshed-out narrative. There’s no mention of whether Shakespeare's hoodwinked lovers will feature in the 50-minute production. What we do know, is that some audience members are being transformed into fireflies and taken under the wings of Shakespeare’s mischievous spirits, with Puck (EM Williams) acting as the guide. Also confirmed among the cast is Maggie Bain as Cobweb, Durassie Kiangangu as Moth, Jamie Morgan as Peasebottom and Loren O'Dair as Mustardseed.
A £10 ticket will offer you the chance to interact with performers and influence several key points of the show, but alternatively, you can watch along passively for free.
Dream is one of four Audience of the Future Demonstrator projects, supported by the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The production has been created in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra.
While born out of necessity, and a bid to keep theatre alive during the Covid-19 pandemic, the show could potentially pave the way for future virtual reality performances to co-exist alongside live, in-person productions.
Doran told the BBC: ‘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.’
|What||Dream, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) online|
12 Mar 21 – 20 Mar 21, Performance times vary, run time 50 minutes
|Price||£10 (or free)|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|