Theatres tempt new audiences with virtual reality
The rant of a football manager unsettled Roberta Doyle.
Despite being only a member of the audience, I was frightened by how real the rant seemed due to the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets.
During half-time, you’re in the dressing room listening to his views on your first half performance. It rattled me, there was a lot of swearing and finger pointing. But it was very well done. It was uncomfortable but in a good way.”
A play called Smile was based on the life of legendary Dundee United manager Jim McLean.
Upon arriving at the Dundee Repertory earlier this year, Ms Doyle expected a conventional show featuring the blunt-spoken manager.
She accepted an invitation to a section of the foyer where VR headsets were offered to curious audience members.
Box Office VR, founded by Kelman and Gemma Grieg-Kicks, provided the intense preview sequence.
As filmmakers and theatre tourers, the husband-and-wife team hopes VR can extend theatre’s reach to untapped markets.
For users to use Box Office VR, they would need their own headset, but it works with cheap systems such as Google Cardboard VR Glasses.
Customers must insert their phones into VR devices to watch a show.
The user straps the box around their head and plugs in their own headphones once the phone is placed in the box.
The app streams a recorded performance to the phone, which the VR headset amplifies, giving the viewer a 180-degree view of the stage.
It is designed for people who may not think of going to the theatre, or who are unable to physically get there.
So far, it’s only a small audience. Approximately 100 people have downloaded a show through Box Office VR.
Her husband and she began Box Office VR as a passion project.
Despite that, she believes the potential exists. It means they can host shows that wouldn’t be able to tour otherwise.”
A production of London’s Sadler’s Wells dance theatre, which has a Digital Stage label for its online repertoire, was also filmed by Box Office VR.
Shows have also been made available via VR headsets at established names such as York Theatre Royal.