National Theatre, alongside their partner for innovation Accenture, and world-leading volumetric capture experts Dimension, have collaborated to create a communal, life-sized volumetrically captured virtual reality (VR) performance, All Kinds of Limbo.
All Kinds of Limbo is an original piece of music and performance especially commissioned in response to the critically-acclaimed Small Island. Singer Nubiya Brandon, musician Raffy Bushman and the NuShape Orchestra take you through the genres of reggae, grime, classical and calypso in a musical journey inspired by the influence of West Indian culture on the UK's music scene.
Using cutting-edge VR and holographic technology to craft the staging, audiences step in to the VR performance space with the musicians for an intimate, immersive musical experience. The audience, while wearing virtual-reality headsets, can walk around and view Brandon’s life-sized hologram from all angles and enjoy her performance up close. As the song progresses, the environment shifts and transforms between different sets, orchestra members appear, and Brandon’s costumes and dance styles change in time with the story of the music.
Small Island, based on Andrea Levy’s epic, Orange Prize-winning novel, saw a run on the Olivier stage from April 17th to August 10th. Adapted for the stage by Helen Edmundson, Small Island follows three intricately connected stories, where hope and humanity meet stubborn reality as the play traces the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK.
Toby Coffey, Head of Digital Development at National Theatre, was keen to create an experience provoked by Small Island to explore the positive influence of mixed heritage as seen in current culture, and commissioned Bushman to create a piece of music that would become the founding blocks for All Kinds of Limbo in February 2019. To bring the performance to life, Coffey wanted audiences to see life-sized holographic performances, and together with Accenture approached Dimension for their expertise on volumetric capture.
Volumetric capture, a state-of-the-art filming technique which films a performance with over 100 cameras simultaneously, creates a photo-realistic four-dimensional video (commonly referred to as a hologram) that can be played back in a variety of environments.
Toby Coffey | Head of Digital Development, National Theatre
“This is an important project in its own right, but from a production standpoint it is an important stepping stone in how audiences will engage with content in three to five years time,” says Coffey. All Kinds of Limbo runs in parallel to a free holographic experience, which combines a hologram of Brandon’s performance of of All Kinds of Limbo with a Hologauze display and Pepper’s ghost illusion.
“This project’s been so different from anything I’ve worked on,” said Brandon, “We’ve had to merge together the technical side as well as the creative aspect which is, generally, performance, and making sure that the performance is as realistic and creative as it can be, whilst being in the regulations of the tech spec.
“This [story] is a huge part of the jigsaw piece that pieces together this country. You can never tell people what they should feel when they come and see something. All I can hope is that my story relates to their story. So, all I can say is just bring a fresh pair of eyes and bring a warm heart.”
All Kinds of Limbo VR runs for approximately 20 minutes, with three performances per hour from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from noon to 8 p.m. on matinee days. Tickets are available for £5 until September 12th on www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/all-kinds-of-limbo.