Find out what Dream, our upcoming live interactive production inspired by the themes of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, will look, feel and sound like.

We talk about the project to RSC Director of Digital Development Sarah Ellis and Luke Ritchie, Head of Innovation and Partnerships for the Philharmonia Orchestra.

Dream _Audience of the Future_ rehearsal shots_2021_Photo by Stuart Martin_309324
Photo by Stuart Martin © RSC Browse and license our images

What is Dream?

Sarah Ellis: It’s exploring the future of live technology by reimagining Shakespeare’s play. We want to challenge and change how live performance can be experienced when it is no longer being bound by physical location.  

What will the experience be like? 

You experience Dream through a website, it’s as simple as that. You’ll click on a button and go into the performance and it will be wonderful! Entering the unreal world of the forest, you will meet avatars of Puck, Moth, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Cobweb performed by actors whose movements and facial expressions are rendered onto the characters in real time through motion capture and facial rigging technology.  

Each performance is unique, as the audience behave differently at each event. 

What is new and different about Dream to things I might have experienced before?  

To date you will have mainly experienced videos of live performers on a stage. Instead of simply watching a performance, Dream will take you into that world using digital characters that are performed by live actors. We are using the latest gaming technology, live broadcast techniques, and performance technology to enable the actors and audience to interact with each other in real-time. 

Who is it for? 

Anyone can experience Dream from anywhere in the world. You can sit and watch it as a family or on your own.  

The live performances are streamed to audiences at different times of the day and night, including a 2am GMT performance, so they are accessible to audiences across the world in different time zones, to individuals and their families and to schools. 

What is the relationship between Dream and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Dream is inspired by Shakespeare’s play. It’s not a performance of the play, but it’s inspired by the world of the play and the themes of the play. And it’s such a brilliant play for now and for us to imagine what different worlds could be like.  

What technology do I need to take part? 

You need your computer, or a mobile phone or a tablet.  

Do you have to be tech-savvy and understand the world of video games to make the most of it?  

No. You don’t. You need to be curious and you need to be open, but that’s all you need. We’re making it using gaming technology but this is a piece of performance that we hope will inspire and delight you.  

We’re hoping to bring people together to help them imagine what the future of theatre can be with us.  

Dream is described as R&D and a prototype – where do you want it to go from here? Is this the future of theatre?  

Where we hope it goes from here is that we will be able to embed some of these technologies into how we make theatre more generally.  

I think this is part of where theatre is headed in the future, I don’t think it’s a homogenised situation, it’s a part. We are creating an ‘and’ not an ‘other’ or a ‘thing’. We are hopefully providing a new set of ways you can make theatre for future audiences.  

How has lockdown and the pandemic affected Dream

Last year we were due to do a performance in Stratford and that was obviously not possible. We started again effectively and thought about how we can make a piece of work that can meaningfully engage with audiences wherever they are.  

Can you describe the music will we hear in Dream?  

Luke Ritchie: Dream has a mixture of three pieces of music, including a beautiful lush bit of Ravel. 

The music is from 100-strong symphony orchestra, the Philharmonia Orchestra. It’s big, symphonic beautiful music. We want it to sound as magical as possible so there’s a really rich sound world, to create as immersive an audio experience as possible, to that you’ll feel like you’re in the forest.  

Then you’ll have this layer of interactive music using this tool called Gestrument, which allows the performer to add a musical signature to some of their gestures.   

What impact will the music have on the experience?   

There’s just something really human and communal about 100 musicians playing together, so we just want some big overwhelming beautiful music that makes people feel immersed. At moments they will be frightened and there will be moments of wonder, but at the heart of it we want people to find a sense of a communal experience - that’s the glorious thing about what an orchestra can do.  

We also want it to feel that you know that what you’re seeing is live. The way the performers move and interact with the sound world will mean that every show is slightly different.  

Personally, I can’t wait to watch it with my kids. We’re going to watch it on our TV together. I hope that people watch it and feel some kind of communal sense of reconnection. 

Dream runs from Friday 12 March to Saturday 20 March 2021. Visit dream.online to book your ticket.

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