16 March 2021

Dream - Royal Shakespeare Company Review

The Royal Shakespeare Company is known for being an innovative company when it comes to technology, their 2016 production of The Tempest in collaboration with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios featured on stage motion capture, and now their latest offering is a live-streamed virtual production, Dream. 


Dream is a collaboration between The RSC, The Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast and The Philharmonia Orchestra. This feat of technology roots you as an audience member right into the hard of the forest and part of the world of Midsummer Nights Dream (although this is merely inspired by that world rather than being a straight adaptation). The story is told through Puck as she explores the forest, meeting sprites Moth, Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed along the way. A storm then causes destruction, and it's up to us the glowworms to help Puck rebuild the forest. The plot pulls some of the imagery and poetry from Shakespeare. This allowed the designers to grow the virtual forest from the poetry within the play and that really comes across well.


Photo Stuart Martin (c) RSC.


The unique element of this production is that it is live. You'll have never seen anything quite like this. You're first greeted by EM Williams who plays Puck, they greet you in her motion capture costume and then they walk into space and then it begins. The virtual reality world is stunning. The forest literally comes to life before your eyes. It's a beautiful lush landscape. The world instantly felt calming and soothing.


The technology involved in Dream really raises the bar in terms of combining theatre and live performance with the latest technological advances. The sky is the limit to watch could be achieved. It's almost unfathomable to me that this online production has been created during a pandemic. I can't praise everyone involved enough for the work they've achieved here.


The motion-capture work involved is of the highest quality. The movement felt smooth and easy to watch. It almost felt as if you were watching a ballet, especially with Puck's movements. The motion capture and virtual reality make it feel like you as an audience are right there in the forest, you become part of the world. The cast all give great performances in this virtual world creating the characters and that movement.


The soundscape further enhances the world, with birdsong, leaves fluttering and other sounds really drawing you into the experience. Music from the Philharmonia orchestra adds another layer to the world of Dream. The clever process used was described as "gesturement", which means that when one of the characters moves you'll hear music. This is generated live meaning that every show sounds slightly different.

 

Puck and the Fireflies in the virtual forest. Photo Paul Mumford (c) Dream, 2021/Marshmallow Laser Feast/Paul Mumford.

Dream comes with two viewing options, you can watch the performance for free or you can pay £10 and this allows you to interact with the performers. As part of the Audience Plus ticket, you're offered the choice to interact with the characters. You take the role of a glowworm and you help light the world so that Puck can find the way. The first bit of interactivity I wasn't sure if I was doing it right but by the second time, I'd worked it out and found it very easy to use. I can imagine children being particularly engaged with the interactivity, but even for me as a 29-year-old I was fascinated. 


Dream has already pulled in over 20000 people in it's first three performances including 25% of new bookers to the RSC. The online element allows for a global audience to watch the production. The design team have clearly put a lot of thought into making sure the piece is accessible for all, and it really is. It's really engaging including a post-show Q and A with the cast too, this allows you to learn more about the world you've just seen brought to life.


Dream blurs the virtual and the real world and allows for the imaginations of the audience to run wild and free. It's a unique, incredible and unforgettable experience. I urge you all to grab a ticket.


Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Dream continues until Saturday 20th March. With free tickets, if you just want to watch the performance or £10 Audience Plus tickets available allowing for interactivity. Visit http://dream.online/ to book or for more information.



Photo by Stuart Martin (c) RSC.

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