Latest staging of The Tempest in Falmouth creates a virtual storm with
innovative use of advanced communications technology
An innovative performance in Cornwall of Shakespeare’s 400-year-old play The Tempest has explored how technology could change the way theatrical plays are performed and watched in what is believed to be a world first.
Actors from Cornwall-based Miracle Theatre Company performed the play at two different locations to two audiences linked together using an advanced video system powered by superfast broadband.
Unmanned cameras at each location captured the performance and streamed it live over the superfast connection to screens at the other location and to audiences at home, watching on the internet. It is believed to be the first time in the world that a production performed at two locations in this way has been transmitted over the internet to people at home.
The performance took place at the Discovery Quay in Falmouth with six actors carrying out their roles at the Maritime Museum and another two performing at the nearby Doghouse, the headquarters of creative production studio, Dogbite.
The theatrical experiment was the brainchild of Vconect, Miracle Theatre Company and Superfast Cornwall. Vconect is a European research project funded by the European Union within its Seventh Framework Programme for Research,of which BT and Falmouth University are partners. It aims to use the latest technology and video to enable mass communication within communities.
Marian Ursu, professor of interactive media and scientific director of the Vconect project, said: “Fast broadband connections are enabling new forms of theatrical experience. In this production we are using automatically controlled cameras to link a single play, acted between two locations, each with its own audience and to simultaneously transmit it to an on-line audience. It’s a world first and it is great to be doing it in the context of one of Shakespeare’s finest plays.”
Bill Scott, founder and artistic director of Miracle Theatre Company, said: “This year, Miracle celebrates 35 years of touring into the heart of communities who often have little or no access to quality theatre – it’s at the core of what we do.
“This project offered us a fantastic opportunity to stretch our creative brains and do something completely different with our production of The Tempest. Using the latest digital technology, we were able to re-create our island world in two different places. I am particularly proud of the cast, this project challenged so many aspects of how they traditionally perform, having to interact with each other both on the stage and on screen. We hope everything we have learned will not only feed into the successful development of Vconect, but also Miracle’s future. In the long run, we hope experiments like this will enable us to reach people in more places, and in completely different ways!”
Superfast Cornwall, a partnership between the EU, Cornwall Council and BT, supported the experiment with funding from Superfast Cornwall Labs, an initiative set up to push the boundaries of what is possible using superfast broadband and the benefits it can offer to Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.
Ranulf Scarbrough, Superfast Cornwall programme director for BT, said: “Shakespeare was a true trailblazer in his day, but probably even he would not have imagined how around 400 years later we’d be using technology like this to enable audiences to enjoy his work in this way. It is another great example of the huge opportunities for innovation offered by high-speed fibre broadband. Superfast broadband can transform the way we do business, the way we live and now even the way we watch the theatre.”