News media all over the world have written about the ground-breaking digital live performance show ‘Dream’ by the Royal Shakespeare Company, where Reactional Music (previously Gestrument AB) enables the actors to play on an interactive orchestral score with their movements in real time.
With lock-downs, restrictions and the almost complete show stop for the live scene, there is no doubt we have a thirst for cultural experiences. In the pandemic we learned how to work from home, and there’s no better time than the present to explore how we also can expand the way we consume theatre, music and other live performances from wherever we are in the world.
Gaming meets theatre and music
Being an experimental project to learn and explore how future audiences might consume, Dream is truly a multidisciplinary installation. Is it a theatre using technology? Is it a game with real actors? Is it a live concert or a recording? The lines are blurry. Some of the features in Dream include:
- Live theatre with real actors following the written narrative based on Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
- Motion capture of the actors creating digital avatars mirroring every movement
- A beautifully designed digital midnight forest where the avatars interact with the setting through VR tech and the Epic Games’ Unreal Engine
- Interactive elements where the audience can participate as a firefly to guide Puck in the forest
- Music controlled by the motions of the actors, creating a dynamic and real time generative score based on recordings of the Philharmonia Orchestra
- Live streamed to smartphones, tablets and computers all over the world
“The most exciting moment comes when the technology itself is exposed to the audience; the camera pans into the studio and shows us both the screen with the avatars adventuring in the forest alongside their human counterparts, enacting the drama in real-time motion capture, below the screen”, The Guardian writes in a review.
Nick Cave as the voice of the forest
The announcement of the Australian musician Nick Cave to play the part as the ‘voice of the forest’ caught the attention of the Rolling Stone magazine.
Nick Cave Joins Cast of Interactive Play ‘Dream,’ Playing a Forest
Music played by the actors’ movements
The characters in Dream act in mo-cap suits (motion capture), and each character has their movements tied to their own set of sounds. Puck, played by EM Williams, for example, generates a soft, yet dynamic harp, the notes playfully streaming from the movements of the hand.
With the Reactional Music technology any composition can become interactive with any kind of input, in this case motion sensors. In Dream the works by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jesper Nordin were recorded before the pandemic with over 100 musicians from the Philharmonia Orchestra, and then becoming playable in real time with the technology as the actors also acted as musicians.
In a 4-star review, i newspaper says:
“This innovative production is a fascinating insight into theatre’s aesthetic evolution. Even the lush music, by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Jesper Nordin, is interactive: via an app called Gestrument, the performers can alter the score with their movement, while every footstep creates its own rustling reaction.”
Fantastic media coverage and reviews
The attention for the show has been far better than our expectations, with many articles and reviews by influential media from all around the world.
We are especially happy that the music of the show has had so much positive feedback, not least from the attendees.
Dream in the news
The New York Times: “‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ Sprinkled With High-Tech Fairy Dust”
BBC: “Royal Shakespeare Company to stage virtual reality show”
BBC Radio: “Dream is a new collaborative production by the RSC which isn’t quite like their usual work. It uses actors…”
The Guardian: “Is this an avatar I see before me? Audience takes to stage in virtual Shakespeare play”
The Guardian: “The RSC’s hi-tech Dream opens up a world of theatrical possibility” (subscription only)
The Star: “Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company holds first virtual reality performance”
Mancunion: “Shakespeare in virtual reality: is this the future of theatre?”
I newspaper: “Dream, RSC, review: Nick Cave, a motion-capture Puck and interactive fireflies in a glimpse of the future”
The Times: “Dream review — an experiment to win new online audiences is a mixed success” (subscription only)
The Rolling Stone: “Nick Cave Joins Cast of Interactive Play ‘Dream,’ Playing a Forest”
Financial Times: “Don’t look back: the future is phygital” (subscription only)
Yahoo In the know: “Technology meets the stage in new play by Royal Shakespeare Company”
Trend Bible: “Explore new digital experiences”
The American: “RSC’s Dream Online”
The Courier: “REVIEW: RSC’s experimental Dream gives an intriguing glimpse into the future of live entertainment”
Engineering & Technology: “Theatre Review: ‘Dream’, the Royal Shakespeare Company”
The Arts Desk: “Dream, RSC online review – gaming version unleashes revolutionary potential”
Broadway World: ”BWW Review: DREAM, Royal Shakespeare Company Online”
West End Best Friend: “Review: DREAM, Royal Shakespeare Company”
Pocket Size Theatre: “REVIEW: DREAM, inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by the Royal Shakespeare Company”
The Birmingham Press: “Dream, by the Royal Shakespeare Company”
Burn Hour: “REVIEW: DREAM WITH THE RSC”
North West End: “Dream – Royal Shakespeare Company”
British Theatre Guide: “Dream”
In Swedish news
DN Kultur: “Bli en eldfluga i drömspel med Nick Cave”
DN Kultur: “Sofia Nyblom: Jag vill gå in och hjälpa den digitala midsommarnattsdrömmen på traven”
P3 Musikguiden: “Premiär för rörelsestyrd musikshow”
Musikindustrin: “Gestrument med ny musikupplevelse”
Sydsvenskan: “Royal Shakespeare Company satsar på vr”
Dream is developed by the Royal Shakespeare Company with global technology partners, Epic Games and Intel. Using motion capture and computer game technologies, the production will deliver a wholly new interpretation of Shakespeare and an entirely new channel for theatre.
The project is funded within the Audience of the Future programme by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
About Reactional Music
Reactional Music is a Swedish/UK music-tech startup with the ambition to change the way we interact with music. The patented technology allows a composer, hobby musician or any music consumer to play within the rules of music in many different ways – in concert as a digital instrument, as an interactive layer on top of recorded music, in games or in other interactive music applications. Pitch ranges, rhythm, scales, duration, legato, velocity and other parameters in music can be controlled with any input device; movement, touch, synths or game events for example, all generated in real-time. With the praised consumer apps Gestrument PRO and Scalegen users can experiment with music-making on their iOS device.