Virtual reality (VR) is to become even more prominent in live theatre with the announcement that the National Theatre is planning to establish an ‘Immersive Storytelling Studio’. The Storytelling Studio will form part of the National Theatre’s New Work Department who will work in collaboration with the National Theatre Digital Development Team.
By creating the studio, the National Theatre hopes to build on the success of its 2015 VR music video fabulous wonder.land and find new ways to integrate VR and 360 film into performances in order to broaden and enhance the stories it tells. By integrating this technology into live theatre, the National hopes to enhance the experience for the audience with new levels of immersion and allow creative teams to achieve things that might once have been impossible. The Immersive Storytelling Studio’s role will be to experiment and commission new works for the National Theatre that are specifically to be experienced using VR or 360 technologies.
Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at the National Theatre said: “By working with the creative talents of writers, directors and actors within the NT’s network, we can identify exactly how Virtual Reality and 360 film could be part of the way we tell stories for the stage and beyond. The immersive nature of this technology is incredibly powerful and the NT is acutely aware of the importance of this as an advanced form of storytelling, and excited to see where our experimentation might take us.”
The Immersive Storytelling Studio already has exciting projects and collaborations planned for the rest of the year. Its first project will be HOME | AAMIR, an immersive 360 documentary that follows 24 year old Aamir as he journeys across Sudan, Libya, the Mediterranean, Italy and France, to escape the threat of murder in Sudan. This collaboration between the National Theare, Surround Vision and Room One will be the first in a series of 360 documentaries that will explore the meaning of home through the stories of refugees who have been living in the Calais Jungle.
HOME | AAMIR will first be shown at Sheffield Doc/Fest as part of Alternate Realities: Virtual Reality Arcade, a programme curated by Mark Atkin, at Site Gallery and The Space, from Friday 10 to Wednesday 15 June.
The Studio will also collaborate with pioneers of the VR industry, the first of whom is director of VR works Assent, The Turning Forest and Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel, Oscar Raby, who will undertake a two week residency with the National Theatre. During his residency which will take place in June Raby will research and investigate the dialogue between the languages of VR and theatre, in order to develop VR work with the National Theatre and examine the idea of the VR user as a performer in their own narrative.
Finally, in Autum the Studio will collaborate with National Film Board Canada in order to explore creative non-fiction VR storytelling. The collaboration will last three weeks and will bring theatre artists from the UK and Canada together to develop work which will bring together elements of creative documentary, theatre, and VR production.
VRFocus will be keeping up with news from the Immersive Storytelling Studio and will report with new information as it becomes available.