April 24, 2024

How the Royal Shakespeare Company is Using 5G for Immersive Theatre

  • The Royal Shakespeare Company has been using technology to transform the work of The Bard for years.
  • In 2022, he began experimenting with 5G to look for ways it could help expand the theater.
  • The company sees 5G as a way to offer immersive theater experiences and enhance live shows.
  • This article is part of “5G Playbook,” a series exploring one of the most important technological innovations of our time.

William Shakespeare has been a catalyst for innovation for over 400 years. During his lifetime, the English playwright coined new words, phrases, and tropes, and his plots inspired other artists to think about their own pushing of boundaries. masterpieces. The staging of his work allows creators to test what they are capable of – often to great effect.

“His stories have always worked on new platforms,” ​​Sarah Ellis, director of digital development at the Royal Shakespeare Company, told Insider, explaining that “Shakespeare’s works have a resilience that allows them to adapt to very different contexts and allows artists to be in a state of perpetual discovery.”

The Royal Shakespeare Company is a theater group based in Stratford-upon-Avon, England — the birthplace of Shakespeare. Despite the company’s prominent location, Ellis and her colleagues are pursuing a future where live theater is not bound by the physical constraints of place. And the way to do that, she said, is through technology.

“Today, we are just a stage in Stratford-upon-Avon,” said Ellis. “We are a multifaceted organization and the storytelling will reflect that.”

Using 5G to deliver a new Shakespeare experience

In her post, Ellis examines how cutting-edge technologies can expand the possibilities of theatre, facilitate artists’ visions, and engage new audiences.

One innovation that has attracted attention is the fifth generation of wireless network technology, commonly known as 5G. This cellular standard enables greater bandwidth and faster data transfers than its predecessors; in ideal conditions, wireless providers say 5G could be up to 200 times faster than the 4G network.

The Royal Shakespeare Company is at the start of its 5G journey. In 2022, Ellis and her colleagues collaborated with Ericsson, a Swedish telecommunications company, to experiment with their 5G laboratory.

The two companies discussed key scenarios where they thought 5G could add to the theater. For example, they explored how 5G could be useful for distributing real-time performances across multiple digital platforms and reaching audiences with their own 5G-ready devices. The 5G lab experience also made another use of the technology – the collaborators realized it could connect audience members within the theater space itself.

“If you have a group of people together, you can connect them individually through that 5G infrastructure,” Ellis said. “That’s an interesting idea for us – how can we make the theater even more of a collective experience?”

These experiments also convinced Ellis – who already saw the potential of the technology and he called it talk in 2019 – that 5G could be a useful tool in the company’s theater manufacturing toolkit.

“The thing about 5G is that it’s pipeline heavy – it can run a lot of data very efficiently and locally,” Ellis said. “Real-time technology, latency, and the promise that data can flow really strongly are critical for what we want to do.”

The Royal Shakespeare Company has not yet used 5G in production, but deployment is “very close,” Ellis said. Expanded 5G coverage is needed to unlock artistic potential: real-time theater is delivered to mobile phones the moment it’s made. This goal requires 5G because “when data breaks, you break the connection between the artist and the audience,” she said.

The Royal Shakespeare Company has been using technology to innovate for years

The renowned theater company understands the potential of the technology because of past experiments. Its digital arm supports research and development. His first large-scale technology project, an online drama and world building experience which appeared across different formats, called A Midsummer Night’s Dreamwas released in 2013.

In 2016, the Royal Shakespeare Company was incorporated digital avatar into a real-time performance of “The Tempest,” Shakespeare’s last play. During the play, the actress who played the sprite Ariel wore a motion capture suit covered with sensors that collected movement and facial data. This informed the movements of the avatar, which was projected around the theater.

In 2021, the Royal Shakespeare Company took up the subject of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” again and produced “Dream,” which viewers of an online performance could access on a computer, mobile phone or tablet. During this live, immersive experiencethe audience turned into avatars of the play’s fictitious characters virtual forest; these were also based on the data captured by actors in motion capture devices.

an actor wearing a motion capture suit performs in front of a blue background

Royal Shakespeare Company actor performs in “Dream.”

Stuart Martin/Royal Shakespeare Company



Because of its capabilities, Ellis thinks 5G can push the work already underway and “deepen these stories in the online space.”

“We are not short on ideas or short on the content we want to create,” she said. “But we know we need a resilient and robust infrastructure to deliver our innovative artistic vision and ambition.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *