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Lyric Theatre VR Project - Blackout

Organisation: Lyric Theatre

Detailed description ‘Lyric VR Project’

The aim of the project was to enhance audience experiences at the Lyric Theatre, to encourage new visitors and to reach out to new audiences. In the wake of the Covid crisis, theatres face the problem regarding the inability to have a live audience in a communal space to watch the work that has been created. The Lyric sought to use digital means to serve the ‘non-live’ audience who are unable to physically attend, and to research if digital means can compensate for the live experience.

The project involved the creation of an immersive Virtual Reality software application to deliver remote theatre experiences to new audiences.

The application allows users to become immersed in the theatre and includes 3 distinct experiences to provide a taste of life at The Lyric:

1. Blackout

Blackout is Lyric’s Creative Learning production for distribution to schools across Northern Ireland, and tells the story of James: a young man who, dealing with a number of challenging personal issues, becomes involved in a world of antisocial behaviour. He dabbles in alcohol and drug abuse, which leads him into serious trouble with the law and the threat of a 10 year jail sentence.

Initial 360 footage puts users in the midst of a group of teenagers, where they witness scenes of antisocial behaviour and peer pressure play out before their eyes.

The VR application includes scenes captured at a local custodial educational centre, where typically young offenders would spend time for antisocial behaviour. Users find themselves in this virtual setting, witnessing what life is like ‘behind bars’ - in the cells, as well as the communal areas.

Additionally, users can watch a recording of the Blackout production in an immersive environment, where they feel that they are almost in the theatre for real.

2. Behind the scenes

Users can travel behind the scenes to experience the stage lighting set up and operations at The Lyric. This area is generally out of bounds to the public, and the experience recreated in VR provides a realistic overview of the complexities involved in all aspects of the stage lighting. In the VR setting, users can experience working at heights and the limitations of the actual space available to the technicians, including the lightning bridge, the fly floor, and the tension wire.

3. VR Under the Sea Eco Scene

Elements of Eco Schools Project- Lyric’s Creative Learning production for distribution to schools across Northern Ireland have been recreated in the immersive application.

Users travel around a virtual sea bed, listening to the narrative and learning about the impact of our actions on the environment. They can visualise marine life with animations of shoals of fish and seaweed in the 360 environment. They see a huge amount of plastic floating around the water, and on seabed – bottles, coffee cups, single use plastic items, tyres, well

Key text and animations highlight the harm caused by plastic, and how we can reduce this. Audio introduction telling the users they are going to be completing an underwater treasure hunt challenge, where they have to find and collect the keys/tokens to enable them to unlock the treasure chest. This gamified element is highly motivating. Users also engage with activities including freeing a fish which is trapped in plastic and gathering waste plastic from the seabed.

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