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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Flutsch

The Royal Shakespeare Company: Dream of the Future


Review: Dream, The RSC, live streamed until 20 March. Tickets (both free and paid for) available here.

[Disclosure: The RSC provided me with an interactive ticket for the purposes of this review.]

Of all the magical and enchanting experiences that have been created during the pandemic, it is the RSC that has forged ahead into unchartered territory with its mysterious and mesmerising production, Dream. Dream is something brand new, something wonderful and something that could not have happened without the pandemic.

Inspired by Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, the RSC’s Dream is an exploration of Shakespeare’s enchanted forest, at night, by Puck and Titania’s faeries. Using gaming’s powerful Unreal Engine, Shakespeare’s forest, with its wild thyme, oxlips, violets, musk roses and eglantine, has been grown into a 7km2 virtual reality space. Into this space, actors in motion capture suits, linked to interactive music making tool Gesturement, perform live, as their character avatars.

The actors perform in a purpose built motion capture studio at Portsmouth Guildhall. There is a section in the production where the audience is allowed glimpses into how the actors are performing simultaneously against the backdrop of the virtual forest and their avatars.

Each audience member who holds an interactive ticket, is allowed to enter the virtual forest and becomes a glow worm. Using a 3D map, the audience glow worms light Puck’s path of exploration through the forest. Audience members who do not hold an interactive ticket, are able to watch the entire production for free. I have talked to a number of people who held both paid and free tickets and both have said that the experience of watching this production was magical.

The music is lush and mesmerising with three, rich layers. The first layer of music has been pre-recorded by the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen in its last full performance before lockdown. The second layer of music/soundscape is live and is generated by the actors’ movements, picked up by their motion capture suits and fed into Gesturement. The actors’ gestures are converted to music - sometimes bells and harps – to perfectly reflect the actors’ performance and is in harmony with the pre-recorded music.

The final layer in this lush soundscape is also created by the actors’ movement and reflects the type of avatar each actor is controlling. Peaseblossom, played by Jamie Morgan, is expressed as an avatar made up of branches, leaves and flower petals – every move made by Morgan is matched by the appropriate sounds – creaking branches, swirling leaves, falling petals. Similarly, Moth, played by Durassie Kiangangu, is made of hundreds of tiny moths – every move Kiangangu makes sounds like a flutter of tiny wings.

It is easy to become dazzled by the sheer amount of cross disciplinary research and development that has gone into this production. However, another aspect of this production also deserves praise. It would have been relatively easy to create a virtual reality forest and put on a show for only those who own VR headsets. But with the level of digital inequality in the UK, laid bare by the pandemic, the RSC did not want to take this path of least resistance.

Rather, the RSC has created a virtual world, freely accessible to those with almost any type of device. No theatre company can cure the world’s digital inequality on its own, but the RSC has made great strides with over 20,000 people from all over the world watching the first 3 shows. Of these 20,000 people, one quarter had never been to the theatre before. There were well over 7000 people in the audience, the night I watched the performance.

This magical, enchanting and cutting edge production runs until 20 March and with free tickets, there is no reason not to go.


Square Stage
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