Con­jur­ing up Shake­speare’s magic with live 3D holo­grams

RSC teams up with man who cre­ated Gol­lum to bring con­tem­po­rary tricks and twists to The Tem­pest

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Han­nah Fur­ness ARTS CORRESPONDENT

MORE than 400 years ago, Shake­speare was busy daz­zling his first au­di­ences with the lat­est in baf­fling theatre tech­nol­ogy, from trap doors to ex­plod­ing fire­works and the sound of rum­bling thun­der.

This year, the Royal Shake­speare Com­pany is hop­ing to cre­ate the same im­pact as it be­comes the first theatre to con­jure live dig­i­tal avatars to join the ac­tors on stage.

The RSC will work with stu­dios run by Andy Serkis – who trans­formed him­self into Gol­lum in Lord of the Rings – and In­tel to use the lat­est dig­i­tal tech­nol­ogy in a new pro­duc­tion of The Tem

pest, star­ring Si­mon Rus­sell Beale. While de­tails of the pro­ject are still in de­vel­op­ment, it hopes to trans­form the char­ac­ter of Ariel into a mys­ti­cal 3D holo­gram, which will re­act with the cast as it is pro­jected live on stage.

The fi­nal ver­sion will in­cor­po­rate and up­date a tech­nique al­ready used in Hol­ly­wood, where the move­ments of ac­tors dressed in spe­cially de­signed suits are mim­icked by a char­ac­ter on screen.

Rather than be­ing pre-recorded and pro­jected on stage each night, it is hoped the 2016 Ariel will be seen in live mo­tion cap­ture, with an ex­pert con­trol­ling the move­ments from back­stage.

The teams are ex­per­i­ment­ing with spe­cial ef­fects that al­low the holo­gram to ap­pear cov­ered in fire or wa­ter or chang­ing shape, to cap­ti­vate a new gen­er­a­tion.

How­ever, the hi-tech spe­cial ef­fect will be matched by tra­di­tional, cen­turies-old tech­niques such as Pep­per’s Ghost, which uses a mir­ror im­age to al­low ob­jects and peo­ple to fade or trans­form.

Rus­sell Beale will re­turn to Strat­ford-upon-Avon to play Pros­pero, the ma­gi­cian, in what is de­signed to be a “spec­tac­u­lar fi­nale” to the sea­son com­mem­o­rat­ing the 400th an­niver­sary of Shake­speare’s death and the com­pany’s ju­bilee year.

Gre­gory Do­ran, the artis­tic di­rec­tor of the RSC said: “Shake­speare in­cludes a masque in The Tem­pest – they were the mul­ti­me­dia events of their day, us­ing in­no­va­tive tech­nol­ogy from the Con­ti­nent to pro­duce as­ton­ish­ing ef­fects, with mov­ing lights and stage ma­chin­ery that could make peo­ple fly and de­scend from the clouds.

“In one such masque, ap­par­ently, Oberon ar­rived in a char­iot drawn by a live po­lar bear. “So I wanted to see what would hap­pen if the very lat­est cut­ting edge 21st cen­tury tech­nol­ogy could be ap­plied to Shake­speare’s play to­day.

“We con­tacted the lead­ers in the field, In­tel, and they were de­lighted to come on board. And we have been de­vel­op­ing our ideas with them, and Andy Serkis’s bril­liant Imag­i­nar­ium Stu­dios to pro­duce won­ders.” Rus­sell Beale, who re- turns to the RSC 20 years af­ter play­ing Ariel in a 1996 Sam Men­des pro­duc­tion of the play, said: “I am thrilled to be re­turn­ing to the RSC af­ter so many years – it’s like com­ing home – es­pe­cially for a pro­ject as ex­cit­ing and ex­per­i­men­tal as this.”

The Tem­pest, which will open in Novem­ber, will be joined in the 400th an­niver­sary Win­ter Sea­son by King

Lear, star­ring Sir An­thony Sher in the ti­tle role, David Troughton as Glouces­ter and Paapa Essiedu as Ed­mund.

It will run in rep with Cym­be­line, in which Melly Still, the di­rec­tor, will al­ter tra­di­tion by mak­ing the ti­tle role a queen of a di­vided Bri­tain, not a king. Shake­speare’s Globe is also putting on a ver­sion of the play, en­ti­tled Imo­gen, that chal­lenges the gen­der roles by plac­ing a woman cen­tre stage.

The RSC will con­tinue to cel­e­brate the 30th birth­day of its Swan theatre with pro­duc­tions of The Two Noble

Kins­men by Shake­speare and John Fletcher, telling the story of two friends em­bark­ing on “ab­surd ad­ven­tures and painful con­fu­sions” in a study of “the in­tox­i­ca­tion and strange­ness of love”.

The 1677 play The Rover by Aphra Behn, ar­guably the first fe­male pro­fes­sional play­wright in Eng­land, will be staged at the Swan for the first time since 1986, when Jeremy Irons per­formed it in the open­ing sea­son.

The Win­ter Sea­son, an­nounced of­fi­cially to­day, will be com­pleted by a new play, The Seven Acts of Mercy, by Anders Lust­garten, in­spired by a Car­avag­gio paint­ing of the same name and chal­leng­ing the “dan­ger­ous ne­ces­sity of com­pas­sion” over 400 years.

Mr Do­ran said of the sea­son: “I can­not think of a clearer way of show­ing the ‘in­fi­nite va­ri­ety’ of Shake­speare’s work and the in­spi­ra­tion he has pro­vided over the cen­turies.

“Shake­speare is for ev­ery­one and we want to share his legacy with the widest pos­si­ble au­di­ence. His in­her­i­tance is for the many, not the few.”

Si­mon Rus­sell Beale in an im­age that il­lus­trates how the RSC will use lat­est tech­nol­ogy to make the char­ac­ter Ariel ap­pear as a live 3D holo­gram on­stage for The Tem­pest

Above, the masque scene, in a 1951 per­for­mance of The Tem­pest, was Shake­speare’s ver­sion of a mul­ti­me­dia event. Below, Andy Serkis as Gol­l­lum – his com­pany is work­ing with the RSC on the new pro­duc­tion

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