Newly developed captioning technology that aims to offer a more immersive audience experience is to be made freely available to theatre companies in the UK.
It is hoped that the technology will to enable theatre to reach more D/deaf audiences.
Developed by drama and performance experts and digital researchers at the University of Nottingham, the technology is able to generate captions much faster than traditional software and uses projection mapping to display them onto the set, props and actors.
Jo Robinson, head of drama and creative writing at the University of Nottingham, said: “We were really conscious that for deaf audiences performances are not generally immersive, as you need to keep switching focus between the action that’s happening on stage and the captions at the side or bottom of the stage.
“So our question was: can we put the captions into the action and make them an integral part of the production on stage? Our answer was to enlist the skills of researchers in our Mixed Reality Lab to develop new software to allow theatre designers to do just that.”
The software was co-developed in collaboration with East Midlands company Red Earth Theatre and D/deaf audience members.
The technology is currently being used on a UK touring production of Soonchild, adapted from the book by Russell Hoban. It will be offered free of charge to other theatre companies, alongside training on how to use it, once the tour has finished.
Red Earth Theatre co-artistic director Amanda Wilde said: “This research project with the University of Nottingham has encouraged us to evaluate our current access provision and to be more creative with how access is integrated into our future touring shows.
“As a small-scale touring company committed to providing access for D/deaf audiences, it has afforded us the space with our research colleagues, to be more ambitious and inventive in developing our access offer and to push the boundaries of captioning in theatre.”
She added: “The research element of the project gives us the opportunity to both excel and fail in equal measure, a factor most important to testing new ideas and new approaches to access.”
The project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
A special performance of Soonchild will be staged at Nottingham Trent University’s Waverley Studio Theatre on October 17 to showcase the technology.