RSC paves way with live online performance

Published: 8 February 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

Jamie Morgan (Peaseblossom) in rehearsal for Dream Credit: Stuart Martin

The Royal Shakespeare Company is to stage a live performance of Dream—inspired by Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream—which gives a “unique” opportunity for audiences to influence the live performance wherever they are in the world.

The RSC has collaborated with Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast and the Philharmonia Orchestra on Dream which explores how audiences could experience live performance in the future as well as visiting a performance venue.

Audiences will experience a “new performance environment” that can be accessed on a mobile phone, desktop or tablet at the RSC web site. The latest gaming and theatre technology will be used with an interactive symphonic score that responds to the actors' movement.

The performance is set in a virtual midsummer forest. Under the shadow of gathering clouds at dusk, lit by the glimmer of fireflies, Puck acts as the guide. Audiences are invited to explore the forest, meet Cobweb, Mustardseed, Peaseblossom and Moth and take “an extraordinary journey into the eye of a cataclysmic storm”.

RSC artistic director Gregory Doran said, "what's brilliant about Dream is the innovation at play. An audience member sitting at home influencing the live performance from wherever they are—that's exciting. It doesn’t replace being in the space with the performers but it opens up new opportunities.

"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 cast comprises Maggie Bain (Cobweb), Phoebe Hyder (understudy Puck and Mustardseed), Durassie Kiangangu (Moth), Jamie Morgan (Peaseblossom), Loren O'Dair (Mustardseed), E M Williams (Puck) and Edmund Wood (rehearsal assistant, understudy Moth, Cobweb and Peaseblossom).

Robin McNicholas directs. Script creation is by Pippa Hill and the narrative is by Hill and Robin McNicholas. Esa-Pekka Salonen is music director and composer, Jesper Nordin is composer, interactivity designer and creative advisor, music and Sarah Perry is movement director.

Audiences can choose to buy a £10 ticket for the 50-minute Dream to take part and at key points directly influence the world of the actors. Alternatively, anyone can view the performance for free. There will be 10 performances between Friday 12 and Saturday 20 March.