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National Theatre: Museum of Austerity

Moving mixed-reality storytelling brings to life powerful personal experiences


Previewing at the BFI London Film Festival (LFF), Museum of Austerity is a heartrending mixed reality installation from director Sacha Wares, that uses volumetric capture to preserve personal stories from the austerity era.

A voice for victims

Experienced through Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 headset, Museum of Austerity combines verbal testimony, original music, and volumetric capture to preserve memories of public and private events from the austerity era.

The Austerity Era refers to a decade-long campaign of government budget-cutting that began in the UK in 2010, following the global financial crisis of 2008. The government programme included reductions in spending on welfare, the police, road maintenance, and prisons, among others.

Building the narrative

We captured ten separate performances for use across nine different scenes in the installation, each demonstrating a different element of the impact of austerity. Room 1, for example, tells the tragic personal stories of disabled benefit claimants who died between 2010-2020 as a direct result of austerity measures.

Through the HoloLens 2 headset, viewers were able to interact with holograms depicting the victims at various points across the room. Approaching the holograms activated an audio experience, featuring family members recounting the personal stories of each person.

Telling their stories

Museum of Austerity combines the skills of theatre/XR director Sacha Wares with the in-depth insight of John Pring, editor of Disability News Service. The immersive experience was co-produced by English Touring Theatre, the National Theatre Immersive Storytelling Studio and Trial & Error.

A single-room, work-in-progress version of the installation was shown publicly for the first time at the London Film Festival from 6-17 October 2021.

The experience most recently picked up a Doc Award for Immersive Non-Fiction with ‘Museum of Austerity’ at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam.

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