In the early days of cinema, the camera was largely deployed in a way that replicated the eyes of an audience member at the theatre. Films unwound on a screen in much the same way that a play would be presented on stage. But the new medium quickly came of age when it became clear that audiences expected – and could cope with – a more realistic experience. Cameras started to move and from then on to say that a film seemed like a “filmed play” was to damn it absolutely.
In 2009, the wheel turned full circle, and the Royal National Theatre introduced National Theatre Live, broadcasting live performances of their productions to cinemas and arts centres around the world and bringing their productions to audiences who could not reach or afford a performance on the South Bank. While millions of people have attended a screening of NTLive or one of the other “live theatre” cinematic experiences, or watched recordings of theatre productions online, opinions remain mixed. Undoubtedly, the initiative has brought theatre to the masses in a way that a theatre building could not. But others fear that it has become a corrupting influence. Some directors seem to be styling their productions with the permanency of film in mind rather than staying true to the ephemeral art that theatre is, or should be. The probing eye of the camera draws the viewer into the action and undermines the credibility of gestures and acting that have been set for the stage. And above all, the director of a filmed production controls what is seen by the viewer, precisely limiting the perspectives to show what the director thinks the audience should be looking at.
So far so good but is there a better way?
The team behind LIVR (https://livr.co.uk) clearly think so and, IMHO, they are right. LIVR is theatre as virtual reality. Through a free app and for the price of a pint, LIVR provides a fully immersive 360° experience that puts you front and centre of the audience for some of the very best theatre around.
All you need is a smartphone and a VR headset – and if you don’t have one of those LIVR will give you an ultra-lightweight mobile version VR headset as part of your subscription. The service is very low cost – a monthly subscription of £5.99, which you can cancel at any time – and for this you can watch one show every four weeks choosing from a library of 120 productions that increases by 8 new shows each month.
When I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to try LIVR, I watched three recent, widely acclaimed productions – Our Man in Havana (Spies Like Us Theatre), Medea Electronica (Pecho Mama) and Ladykiller (The Thelmas). The experience is breath-taking. This is everything that digital theatre productions should be but simply can’t and never will be because of the limitations of a flat-on filming process. With virtual reality you are not just watching a recording of a theatre production you are there, in the theatre. It is everything that LIVR promise it will be and more.
LIVR are constantly looking for new shows to film, from gig theatre to black box productions. To explore the possibility of LIVR filming your show you can email the team at Martin@livr.co.