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RSC partners with Fortnite creator Epic Games and Punchdrunk to deliver major immersive project

The National Youth Theatre and Central Saint Martins course will provide an introduction to a range of digital technologies, including virtual reality, 360-degree video, augmented reality and multi-sensory digital experiences. Photo: Shutterstock The immersive performance will run on multiple platforms in 2020. Photo: Shutterstock
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The Royal Shakespeare company has partnered with Punchdrunk and video game company Epic Games as part of an £18 million scheme, aimed at exploring virtual reality across entertainment industries.

It is one of three projects that have been announced to receive the money, which will see the RSC lead on an  immersive performance that will run on multiple platforms in 2020

Public body Innovate UK is awarding the funding as part of its Audiences of the Future programme, which aims to make the UK a world leader in immersive technologies.

These technologies include virtual reality, which is when an entire image or environment is created digitally, and augmented reality, where a computer-generated image is superimposed on to a user’s real view of the world.

The RSC-led performance project is a collaboration of 15 organisations, including Epic Games, the creator of online video game Fortnite. Other collaborators include theatre company Punchdrunk, the Philharmonia Orchestra and Manchester International Festival.

RSC artistic director, Gregory Doran said: “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.

“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 been seen before is hugely exciting.”

The other two projects cover visitor experience and sport entertainment.

London’s Almeida Theatre is co-creative director of the visitor experience project with immersive production studio Factory 42, collaborating with organisations including the Natural History Museum, Sky and tech company Magic Leap.

The project aims to “reimagine the museum visits of the future using storytelling and cutting-edge virtual technology” by creating museum experiences in which the exhibits “come to life”.

Almeida Theatre artistic director Rupert Goold said: “At the Almeida, we interrogate the present, dig up the past and imagine the future so we’re delighted to be joining forces with some of the most prestigious cultural institutions on a project that will use cutting-edge technology to offer a new form of storytelling that bridges the past and future.”

Technology speak: what does it all mean?

Those technical terms explained:

  • Augmented reality: Layering a computer-generated image on to the real world, viewed through a headset or glasses.
  • Haptics: Simulation of touch sensation using a computer application, transmitted on to glass – such as on a smartphone – joysticks or modified clothing.
  • Holography: Displaying a three-dimensional image of a digital recording, using lighting patterns, which can be viewed without special glasses.
  • Immersive technologies: Any form of technology used to draw audiences into a story or to blur the boundaries between the physical and digital world.

Read our full list of technical terms relating to immersive theatre here

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