RSC to stage interactive Midsummer’s Night Dream-inspired performance online

The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is to stage a production inspired by the faerie realm of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which will allow audiences to remotely interact with characters.

 The Midsummer Night’s Dream-inspired performance, ‘Dream’, had originally been scheduled to be staged as a more conventional live performance in spring. However, with most large theatres being forced to close their doors soon after reopening for reduced audiences, the RSC has decided to deliver the production online.

The play will be staged in a virtual forest inhabited by the faeries Puck, Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom, and Moth. Motion sensors worn by performers will map their motion onto digital characters, allowing them to interact with their surroundings and audience members during the performance. Audiences can visit from their phone, desktop, or tablet.

The performance is accompanied by an interactive symphonic score which responds to the actors’ movement.

“What’s brilliant about Dream is the innovation at play,” said RSC artistic director Gregory Doran. “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,” he said.

“The story is king, whether you are a gamer or an audience member,” he continued.” 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.”

The 50-minute production will be staged in collaboration with Manchester International Festival, the art collective Marshmallow Laser Feast, and the Philharmonia Orchestra. It is supported by the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund as an ‘Audience of the Future Demonstrator’ project.

Performances take place from 12 March to 20 March. Tickets are now on sale; watching the performance is free, while a ticket to take part and directly influence the performance is £10.

The RSC previously incorporated live motion capture in its 2016 production of The Tempest. The production featured a 360° metamorphosing digital avatar of the sprite Ariel (projected onto mesh surfaces using 27 projectors driven by specialised media servers) shadowing a live performer wearing a motion capture suit containing strands of gyroscopic sensors.