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RSC Live brings The Tempest from stage to screen

Dean Evans Technology Writer Twitter

The Guardian called the Royal Shakespeare Company’s Intel-powered staging of The Tempest a “kaleidoscopic visual spectacle”. The Telegraph lauded its “Lord of the Rings-style magic.” On January 11, 2017 you can see it for yourselves when the high-tech production is live-streamed to cinemas in the UK and around the world encore screenings will take place on 7th February in UK cinemas and in other cinemas worldwide

Read: Royal Shakespeare Company reimagines The Tempest

It’s not the first time that the RSC has broadcast one of its plays live.

“The January 11 cinema screening of The Tempest is the thirteenth presentation of RSC Live from Stratford-upon-Avon,” says John Wyver, Director, Screen Productions at the RSC. “It’s an initiative that we started with a showing of Richard II in 2013. Our aim is that by 2021 we will have presented in this form each of the 36 plays in Shakespeare’s First Folio.”

The Tempest will be broadcast live to UK cinemas on 11 January 2017.

Rather than film The Tempest during its run at Stratford and showcase it like a traditional film afterwards, the RSC ‘live’ element is central to retaining that raw theatrical feel.

“The cinema audience should feel that they are watching the production along with the audience in Stratford,” says Wyver, “sharing their excitement, their wonder, their emotional involvement — and indeed the sense of jeopardy that is at the heart of live performance.”

The result is a richer, more communal experience and one that will be unique to anyone watching it. Every aspect of The Tempest, from Simon Russell Beale’s haunting Prospero to Mark Quartley’s Ariel (animated by Intel and The Imaginarium), is captured in a dynamic form for the screen.

Mark Quartley as the other-worldly Ariel, on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Mark Quartley as the other-worldly Ariel, on stage at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Rather than one static camera, there are seven or eight in the auditorium, each with a human operator. These provide multiple shots of the action that are mixed live by a screen director. This gives cinemagoers the best, most emotionally engaging viewpoint of the performance every step of the way, with close-up, high-def detail that a seat in the Stratford stalls just can’t match.

“In addition, we live mix more than a hundred channels of audio,” reveals Wyver, “from radio mics on each of the characters, from the band room, and from mics providing ambient sound from the auditorium. This conjures up a perspectival 5.1 audio mix that matches the visuals shot by shot.”

It’s easy to underestimate the impact a live broadcast like this can have. It enables the RSC to reach a much broader audience and offers millions of people the chance to see a world-class, live theatre production for little more than the price of a movie ticket.

Intel technology helped bring special effects, like this terrifying harpy, to the stage.
Intel technology helped bring special effects, like this terrifying harpy, to the stage.

While the RSC, Intel and The Imaginarium Studios bring movie-style special effects to the stage, live-streaming The Tempest brings the stage into the world of the movies. It’s not a substitute for going to the theatre, but a parallel experience, one that translates Gregory Doran’s creative vision in the most immediate and involving way possible.

The Tempest is being performed at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon until 21 January 2017 and will transfer to the Barbican Theatre in London to play from 30 June to 18 August 2017. The play will also be broadcast as part of the RSC’s ‘Live From Stratford-upon-Avon’ programme to cinemas in the UK and Europe on 11 January 2017.  Encore screenings will take place on 7th February in UK cinemas and in other cinemas worldwide : see www.rsc.org.uk/the-tempest/in-cinemas.

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