Last night, along with 7551 others, I took the opportunity to watch DREAM, an innovative project brought to you by the RSC, Manchester International Festival, Marshmallow Laser Feast and the Pilharmonia orchestra. Heavily inspired by A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the audience followed Puck into the forest to meet their fellow sprites; Cobweb, Peaseblossom, Moth and Mustardseed.
The show was anything but what you would expect to see for a lockdown theatre performance. The creators did not shy away from the fact that this was not theatre, but a whole new experience that they were taking the audience through.
Before the show started, we were put into a virtual “lobby”. Unlike a theatre lobby, you could explore the details of the performance such as the cast and crew and organisations involved, through a journey lead by fireflies. As an audience member you were fully immersed into the new world right from the beginning, giving you the sense of being a pioneer of this new experience. I even had the buzz you usually get from waiting for the lights to come up – a feeling many are seeking to find during these times.
When the performance started, you were greeted by a suited Em Williams (Puck) that walked you into the blocked studio. Finally putting on their virtual reality head gear, we were transported in the forest, and ready to experience the magic first-hand.
Combining augmented reality with virtual reality, the audience journeyed into the world with the characters as they were discovering it themselves. The first scene was so crucial to hook the audience, Puck discovering this new embodiment as well as the audience recognising the new habitat. Em and the Philhamonia orchestra incredibly executed the first scene- the gentle music alongside Em’s performance drew the audience in, encapsulating the curiosities within the forest and leading you into the darkness. The creatives embraced that this performance was not the norm, instead completely abstract. The environment reflected that of the impressionism movement and the leaves of pointillism, adding to the ever increasing detail. The characters pushed the boundaries of what could ever be achieved on stage; Puck being made of cleverly shaped rocks joined by pockets of nothing, Cobweb, merely an eye that was later demonstrated of how they achieve their movement in the Q & A after the performance.
During one of the scenes, I think by mistake, you were watching the performance within the studio, and not within the augmented world- but for me, as an appreciator of the production, it was incredible to watch how the performers worked with with the technology to create a graceful and fluid performance.
A Q & A was shared after the performance, fed by tweets from the audience members. This incredible experience had so much work go into it, it was fascinating to hear the stories that were shared that brought so much light into the dark.
The performance was beautifully created, bringing every element of theatre together. I believe this created a leading example of the future of theatre, pushing the boundaries of every expectation.
This was not ordinary theatre, and I was not disappointed!
If you would like to watch a performance of DREAM (which I highly recommend), please visit: