AN ACT of Shakespeare was performed live across 1,600 miles thanks to an award-winning ‘life-sized portal’ in the first staging of its kind.
Students at Coventry University’s performing arts school teamed up with Finland’s University of Tampere to rehearse and perform an act of King Lear as if they shared a stage together.
Made possible thanks to a ‘stargate’ style interactive window, the project aims to eliminate global travel costs while bringing international students together.
The virtual rehearsal room made use of mix of stage and Skype technologies mirrored on both sides of the North Sea, which allowed students to make eye contact, match up voices around the room and see and speak with no delays.
It is hoped the technology can be made fully portable to address the costs and environmental impact of global travel and bring any two institutions together to share expertise and teaching methods regardless of where they are in the world.
Tom Gorman, coordinator of the project at Coventry University, said: “What we needed didn’t really exist yet so we started experimenting and ended up creating this virtual theatre in real space and real time – it’s very exciting.
“We merged video conferencing with theatre design and lighting to give directional sound and the ability to make eye contact so lots of people can interact at one time.
“It is like walking into any room and the other side happens to be one thousand miles away.
“I thought there was something new to discover in theatre, but this could be a real game changer.”
Mikko Kanninen, senior lecturer in theatre at the University of Tampere, said: “Coventry University was interested in developing online teaching and they could offer us their expertise in Shakespeare so of course we were very interested.
“For us it was like these British students and teachers were actually visiting Tampere without flights costs.
“Everyone had normal work hours and the budget was minimal but we had a real international workshop on Shakespeare.”