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RSC bring innovative digital production Dream to screens next month

Is it a game? Is it a play? Is it real or animated? The answer is yes, yes and yes when it comes to the RSC's new production Dream.

Shakespeare’s Puck operates somewhere betwixt physical and spirit worlds and now you can join the mischievous sprite in that strange limbo in a sort of virtual version of a midsummer forest.

What are we blathering on about? Bear with because there’s a bit of technology and conceptual thinking to get over before you might grasp what the jiggins is involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company’s upcoming production, Dream.

Dream is inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the 50-minute show will have the feel of a video game. It will run from 12th to 20th March.

It was due to open as a live and online performance, with the audience able to see it in the flesh at the theatre in Stratford. However with the pandemic continuing to stymie live arts, you will only be able to see it online, BUT the clever bods behind it have devised ways in which you can directly influence the live action while you watch from your screen at home.

Audiences will experience a – buzzword alert - new ‘performance environment’ easily accessed on mobile, desktop or tablet via the Dream 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.

Stuart Martin/Royal Shakespeare (44310666)
Stuart Martin/Royal Shakespeare (44310666)

Once you’ve logged into the virtual midsummer forest, Puck, played by EM Williams, acts as the guide. Under the shadow of gathering clouds at dusk, lit by the glimmer of fireflies, you will be invited to explore the forest from the canopy of the trees to the roots, meet the sprites, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Moth, and take a journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm. Together with Puck the sprites must regrow the forest before the dawn. When day breaks, the spell breaks.

The online event will be a shared experience between remote audience members and the seven actors who play Puck and the sprites. Audiences can choose to buy a £10 ticket to take part and at key points in the play directly influence the world of the actors, or to view the performance for free. The ten Dream performances are scheduled so that audiences across the world can join the event.

Techno bit

Pay attention at the back because this next bit involves some serious science… The production is performed with seven actors in a specially created 7x7metre motion space. Motion capture cameras and state of the art facial rigging capture the movements of the performers. This in turn drives the virtual avatars of each of the characters in real-time through a traditional performance lighting desk into gaming creation software. The live performance is mixed with pre-recorded animation sequences.

The audience is led by Puck who takes them from the real world into the digital world. Then, hey presto, you become a firefly! As fireflies the audience can guide Puck through the forest at key points in the play using the movement of their touchscreen, trackpad or mouse. The actors perform and respond to audience interaction and direction making each performance unique, as the audience will behave differently at each event.

The company has worked in collaboration with Manchester International Festival (MIF), Marshmallow Laser Feast (MLF) and Philharmonia Orchestra to bring about Dream.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran, RSC Artistic Director 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.”

Book tickets via dream.online

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