Fusing Realities: Dream at RSC Online
With the explosion of innovation in computer technology in the past couple of decades, it’s hardly a surprise that some truly original and exciting ways of presenting theatre are springing from the ground. Mixing real-time motion capture with a virtual world created using the Unreal Engine, the Royal Shakespeare Company are conceiving of exhilarating ways to capture their audience’s imagination by creating a setting that oozes atmosphere – the music, the acting, everything is performed in real-time, but it’s all displayed in an entirely rendered space with a result that fuses different types of realities.
Dream – a project inspired by Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream – is a live theatrical performance with a twist. It’s the result of a collaboration of research and technology, gaming and theatre, all performed live in a beautiful spectacle. So far it is relatively short and not a full-length experience, but it still manages to raise questions of how audiences might engage with theatre in the future – not necessarily as a replacement, but as an alternative, demonstrating new possibilities of exploring a story. That said, the production itself already displays an impressive encounter with a dreamscape, set in a mystical forest with strange creatures and vibrant colours; lush orchestral music – also performed live – rounds off the experience and offers a sense of warmth.
Aside from the technological innovation, the project also addresses questions on how to make theatre as accessible as possible. Using this fusion of multiple realities, a production’s reach is truly global, being able to reach audiences across the world. It is also easy to use: participants with little knowledge of the digital world will be able to enjoy the performance to the best of their degree. It’s not quite the same as watching a film online; viewers are perfectly aware that this is a live performance, and through interactive elements they are even able to participate (if currently in a comparatively minute way), and the actors can react and adapt to what their audience is doing.
But the heart of the project is still this: finding new ways to tell a narrative. In its current state, Dream is already blurring the lines between real and virtual, and the current a situation provides an opportunity to consider what to do with this innovation. What other stories can be told in this way? What technologies can be utilised in a performance? It’s an exciting time to witness the development of theatre, and the RSC is right at the forefront, giving a glimpse of what tomorrow may look like.
Dream is available to view via Zoom from 12th until 20th March 2021. For further information or to book visit the Royal Shakespeare Company’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the show here: