As part of the celebrations surrounding the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) has partnered with Intel and Imaginarium Studios to incorporate a revolutionary new ingredient into live theatre: CGI and performance capture technology. This production of The Tempest is currently being performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon until the end of January, resuming again at the Barbican Theatre, London later this summer. The technologically enhanced production will particularly explore the many manifestations of Ariel (Mark Quartley), through the same technology used in the development of Gollum (Andy Serkis) in Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Mark Quartley will be able to control his digital alter-ego’s motions and expressions in real-time, on and offstage. Quartley himself has described how the audience gets “to see two fully fledged performances: one of which is an actor, and another is this apparition that can fly around the space”[1].

Such technological advancement in the production of live theatre is distinctly appropriate for The Tempest as research surrounding the history of its production has consistently emphasised the play’s penchant for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in theatrical performance. Indeed, the very first performance of the play in 1611, according to researchers at the British Library “capitalise[d] on performance possibilities that had not been available to the company prior to the occupation of its new theatre [Blackfriars Indoor Theatre] a couple of years earlier”[2]. This, and the fact that the play begins in calling for “a tempestuous noise of thunder and lightning [to be] heard”[3], illustrates that when it comes to The Tempest, capturing the imagination of the audience was, and continues to be, an integral purpose of the play.

If you are a fan of Shakespeare (which, let’s face it, is extremely probable) then this production will undoubtedly be of interest to you; equally, if Early Modern theatre is a little too dated for your taste, then the production’s revolutionary take on theatrical experience and technological advancement is just as good, if not even stronger, a case to attend.

 

Footnotes

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GH1KNNvv4w

[2] Gordon McMullan, https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/the-first-night-of-the-tempest

[3] William Shakespeare, The Tempest, Act 1, Scene One