Thursday, November 17, 2016

Oh brave new gimmick!

Check this out. If you're even slightly nerdy or just want to think about something that isn't the unrelenting horror show that is America's next President, check this out. The Royal Shakespeare Company (or RSC if you're sassy) in Stratford, England has goddamn holograms in their production of The Tempest. Holograms!
Above: a CGI character from the RSC's production of The Tempest.
Wait, refresh my memory, was Lawnmower Man always in The Tempest?
There's nothing kids love more than a
good William F. Buckley impersonation.
Ok, so obviously we're going to have to walk this back a bit. The production doesn't really have holograms but it does use fancy projections to create the magic effects on stage. If you're not familiar with the play, it's about a Duke called Prospero who lures his dick of a brother to an island so he can take revenge using magic (like most Dukes, Prospero is also a wizard) and an enslaved sprite called Ariel who can change shape to carry out his master's will. He's sort of like the Genie from Aladdin but with fewer anachronistic pop-culture references. 

Pictured: Noted British thespian
Sir Lawrence Olivier, wasting our time.
In the RSC production, Ariel will be played by an actor who will spend part of the show backstage in a motion capture suit with his movements animated in real time. That way Ariel can do all the shapeshifting and cool magic shit that generations of Shakespearian acting had to convey through words and you know, acting. It sounds pretty similar to the technology used suck the joy out of filmmaking but since most theatre companies can barely afford to keep the lights on, much less motion capture suits, I suppose we don't have to worry about it ruining theatre any time soon.

Above: Ariel Actor Mark Quartly,
reevaluating his career choices. 
While it's cool and all, I'm not clear on how this is different from pre-recorded footage being projected on a screen. Unless Ariel holds up today's newspaper in the middle of Act IV, for all we know he could be as live as an Xbox cutscene. I came across a review for the show which says that the production is ok, but that the whole Airel thing comes off as gimmicky, but they're probably just saying that because it's a transparent gimmick. But kind of a cool gimmick, right? Like in theory?

Pictured: The RSC's Gregory Doran
cosplaying Hagrid for some reason.
(source: snark)
Obviously, the most important thing is whether or not Shakespeare would have approved:

"I'm sure he would, um, I think Shakespeare absorbed anything, the new, that was around. I think theatre has always embraced all sorts of new technology...we've always embraced that technology, so this is just an extension of that, really..."

-Gregory Doran, in no way justifying the 
immense cost of the motion capture gear

Yeah, ok, theatre does adapt new technology, but as for Shakespeare approving, I'm not so sure. I mean, I think he'd accuse the cast of being witches in league with the devil and then run screaming from the theatre into the nightmarish neon hellscape of 21st century London only to wander dazedly into traffic and be run down by one of those double decker buses.
Way to go Gregory, you've just killed time traveling Shakespeare.
Any resultant temporal paradoxes are on you. Way to go.

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