Theatre & Virtual Reality


How Technology is Integrating with Performance


Marcus Lilley


Virtual reality is a term that broadly describes viewing images, sensory experiences, videos and immersive experiences through a headset. As a technology it is evoking discussion, disruption and questioning across a range of artistic mediums.

I have always been interested in new technologies and their impact on artistic output; it is exciting to see how technology can add to our inbuilt desire to be entertained, informed and educated. As an artist and performer I explored how social media can be utilised to create identities and to enable audiences to interact with characters. The uniqueness of technology in relation to performance is that it can help expand our imagination and at the same time question our role in and involvement with technology in our day to day lives.

Writing for Create Hub is a great platform to share what is happening in the world, along with ideas and thoughts as to what will be in store for us in the months and years that follow.  As my main area of interest lies in theatre, I want to share what has been happening in theatre and its recent entrance into the world of virtual reality.


The National Theatre

My first instance of seeing how theatre was investigating the potential of virtual reality came when I heard about the opening of the National Theatre Immersive Storytelling Studio.

The studio was created ‘to examine how virtual reality, 360˚ film, augmented reality and other emerging technologies can widen and enhance the NT’s remit to be a pioneer of dramatic storytelling and enable audiences to stand in other people’s shoes’. On first glance this is a really exciting proposition: as the UK’s national theatre,  it seems only right that they are exploring the new mediums that are becoming more readily available and creating the space to research and develop theories and ideas.  The studio has two clear focuses: new writing and 360 Film School, helping writers, performers and technicians to learn new skills and push boundaries in their output.

Watch this video with Toby Coffey, the National Theatre’s head of digital development, for more of an insight into the studio:



Shakespeare and Tech

The Royal Shakespeare Company are always thinking of new ways of involving technology in their performances and their latest production of The Tempest is no different. Working together with Intel and The Imaginarium Studios they forged a partnership which has created a unique blend of live performance and technology.

Using technology most recognisably seen in films, the production creates a real time ‘avatar to life’ that interacts with the performer on stage.  The show is directed by RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran and stars Simon Russell Beale as Prospero and is live on stage at the Barbican in London from the 30th of June to the 18th of August.  Watch the video below to find out more about how the production came together:


Beyond the Theatrical

HOME in Manchester has also produced a virtual reality experience, linked to a related theatrical work. My Name is Peter Stillman opened in February and was produced by acclaimed production company 59 Productions and was funded by The Space …and ran in conjunction with the stage adaptation of Paul Auster’s City of Glass.

Directed by Lysander Ashton, with the performance direction by Leo Warner, the experience drew together animation and technology to go inside the mind of the main protagonist Daniel Quinn, a crime writer who becomes a central protagonist in his own thriller.

Watch this video, below, to find out more about the experience and what audience members thought:


As you can see from the examples used in this article, those using virtual reality in theatre are still experimenting in terms of output, expression and depth of ideas and forms, but the signs look very promising. More importantly, it shows that our leading cultural institutions are wanting to lead the way in the discussion of and experimentation with new technologies.


marcus lilley

Marcus Lilley

Marcus is the Marketing & Promotions Assistant at the Wyvern Theatre & Arts Centre in Swindon; he is also a trustee of Prime Theatre, who are a theatre company which specialise in theatre for children and young people.

Marcus is interested in how theatre organisations and companies use and incorporate digital technologies such as social media, live streaming, video documentation, projection, and mobile applications into their artistic output and company policies.

Author: Naomi Curston

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