RSC heads new era for immersive drama

A £16m research programme led by the Royal Shakespeare Company could herald a new era for audiences.

The scheme, launched today by digital and creative industries minister Margot James as the Audience of the Future programme, will see a team of creative industry specialists, led by the RSC, exploring how to develop immersive performance experiences for audiences. It is part of an £18m investment funded by a £12m government grant augmented by a £6m from industry.

“Some of the best brains in the creative industries and research sector will work together in this unique collaboration looking at the future potential of live performance and what that means for the industry, the creative sector and audiences around the world” said the RSC’s artistic director, Greg Doran. “Every partner has something different to offer through their work with immersive technologies and live performance, and the potential to deliver an experience for audiences that has never seen before is hugely exciting.” 

The research consortium also includes De Montfort University, Epic Games, i2 Media Research Limited, Intel, Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast, Nesta, the Phi Centre, the Philharmonia Orchestra, Punchdrunk, the University of Portsmouth and The Space. 

Over the next two years, James said, the specialists will pool their knowledge and expertise in theatre and performance, the music industry, video production and gaming.  and the research sector to shape how audiences will experience live performance in the future. 

The first year of Audience of the Future will focus on collaborative research and development, with the group exploring merging technologies such as virtual realist, augmented realist and missed reality, culminating in an immersive live performance on multiple platforms in 2020 and eventually arriving at real-time immersive productions.

The government funding is part of its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund being delivered by UK Research and Innovation, announced in March last year in the Creative Industries Sector Deal.

"The UK is home to some of the world's leading digital and creative talent” James said. “Through our modern Industrial Strategy and multi-million pound creative industries sector deal, we are bringing them together to give audiences a truly unique experience. 

"The growth of immersive technology has the power to transform the way in which we watch theatre, play games or go to the cinema, and these new projects will demonstrate how we can take people closer than ever before to the live action."

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