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About enter wonder.land

wonder.land is a National Theatre musical created by Damon Albarn, Moira Buffini and Rufus Norris, inspired by Lewis Carroll’s iconic story. The play explores the blurred boundaries between our online and offline lives. Alice is an avatar of real-life Aly, a teenage girl with problems both at home and school. The rabbit hole is the internet, which takes Aly through to the online virtual world of wonder.land.

To accompany the production we developed a series of digital experiences including:

  • a virtual reality music video called ‘fabulous wonder.land’
  • ‘cat face’ facial recognition screens
  • a walk-in wonder.land green-screen experience
  • an avatar builder


Created with the set designers for wonder.land, the world of the production was represented spilling over into our front-of-house spaces. The installation was a collection of seven sets or references to the show, their designs influenced directly by the show’s design. The installation featured:

The School Toilets

In the production, Aly hides in the school toilets to escape her bullies, and uses her phone to go into wonder.land. For the installation, we redesigned a set of the school toilets to replicate this for audiences. While sitting on the toilet, visitors experienced the virtual reality music video ‘fabulous wonder.land’. Grimy, green and slimy, the toilets were covered in graffiti, with headsets and headphones resting on toilet roll holders. There were five toilets for a seated experience and a hand dryer for an accessible or standing experience.

The Bedroom Wall

Aly’s bedroom wall featured posters of her favourite pop stars and films. Interwoven were a series of iPads and iPhones, each one a facial recognition mirror that replaced your face with the production’s cat-face image.

TV Wall

A tech junkyard with large cat-face facial recognition screens intended for groups and a larger ambient experience.

Walk in wonder.land

A green-screen experience where you could interact with wonder.land’s musical wildlife.

Zombie Cyber Cafe

In the Zombie Cyber-Café ten iPads where available for audiences to create their own avatars. Developed in association with the National Theatre’s Costume Department and using a mix-and-match approach, custom avatars were created from a selection of avatar features from the show.

The Mad Hatters Tea Party

An interactive sound installation with a giant teapot and hand knitted cakes. Visitors used the table, crockery and cakes to create an interactive soundscape.

Ali's Bed

Taking centre-stage in the installation was Aly’s bed, with teenage paraphernalia strewn over the floor and under the bed.

About HOME | Aamir

In 2016 we produced a 360˚ verbatim storytelling film about Aamir, a 22-year-old Sudanese refugee.

This film tells the story of a brave and tenacious young man whose recent life has been a continual fight for survival in the constant face of aggression and rejection. Aamir’s encounters challenge many opinions people hold about refugees forced to escape their original homeland and deepens the viewer’s understanding by placing them in the shoes of this lost soul.

The film had its UK premiere at Sheffield Doc Fest, its European premiere at International Documentary Festival Amsterdam, the largest documentary festival in the world, and its US premiere at Future of Storytelling in New York.

The film won the Grand Jury Prize for VR at the Encounters Film Festival and Best Director and Jury Prize Winner for Best Journalistic Achievement at the Social Impact Media Awards.

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Sundance logo Cannes logo

About RIOT

RIOT takes place in the world of a protest march in which the climate swiftly esculates into a dangerous riot. RIOT responds to the participants’ emotional state in real time to engage and alter the video story journey.

RIOT is an immersive video installation. The objective is to get through a digitally simulated Riot alive. This is achieved through communicating with a variety of characters to acquire information and direction to reach home.The video narrative is controlled by the emotional state of the user which is monitored through A.I. software in real time. This emotional state is measured by bespoke facial expression recognition programs and devices that monitor neurological activity.

The various characters within the film will respond to the users facial expression and emotional recognition which will influence the outcome of the interactions and as a consequence the users journey. For example if the user becomes agitated the character will become defensive or impatient in response, and the user will be taken deeper into an unknown world of the character and directed further away from home.

This project is multi-disciplinary bringing together expertise, innovation and an esteemed track record from teams working within the genres of film production, virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D audio system which is a binaural recording systems, music design and production, video games user.

The RIOT digital experience enables a self awareness experience through tech and storytelling, to enhance the players cognitive skills through a unique multi-sensory experience.
The digital experience is an installation that uses branching video scenarios triggered by specially-written facial recognition software and neurogaming software written by researchers at the cutting edge of human machine interface technology.

Executive Producers Mark Atkin & Tom Millen @ Crossover.

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About Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel

In August 2016 the National Theatre staged The Plough and the Stars, by Sean O’Casey. The play followed events in Ireland from November 1915 to Easter 1916. The Easter Rising, as it became known, was a violent, armed insurgence where men and women occupied key sites in Dublin, proclaiming the Irish Republic. The uprising became increasingly chaotic and bloody, culminating after six days with the rebel leaders surrendering. Hundreds died, including civilians, British soldiers and rebels.

To accompany the production of The Plough and the Stars, we hosted Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel, a BBC Learning virtual reality experience, in a free installation which allowed audiences to further immerse themselves in the events of the Easter Rising in 1916. The experience was created by BBC Learning, Crossover Labs and VRTOV.

Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel let users step into the memories of Willie McNeive and journey back to Dublin and a moment that changed Irish history forever. Through VR, users relived the memories of a 19-year-old Willie as he took part in the Easter Rising.   

Easter Rising makes use of McNeive’s eyewitness account, a recording of which lay undiscovered for over 30 years. Through a remarkable and very personal insight into this key moment in European history, Easter Rising: Voice of a Rebel presented an artistic vision of the memory of an ordinary man who was swept up in an extraordinary event. Liam Cunningham (best known as Davos Seaworth in Game of Thrones) voices the part of Willie McNeive, while Jennifer Saayeng (Les liaisons dangereuses and City of Angels for the Donmar Warehouse, The Color Purple for the Menier Chocolate Factory) voices the Narrator.

Cavan Clarke, actor in The Plough and the Stars said: "I thought it was beautiful, really took me somewhere else while giving me just enough information I could retain while enjoying a story. For an actor it's such an amazing experience to put yourself in a street in a different country 100 years ago. Fuels the imagination. If I could think of anything I would have liked to see more it would have been a few more moments of connection with the other characters. But I loved it."

Read the full article here.

The National Theatre gratefully acknowledges the technical support from Oculus.

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About Backstage & Rehearsal Room

The National Theatre has been described as the busiest producing theatre in the world. We create around 30 productions a year to be shown on our three stages. The building is a theatre-making factory with significant metalwork and carpentry departments, a five-storey paintframe with moving platforms to take the scenic artists up and down, a prop department and an armoury where we decommissions and adapts guns and bombs as well as costume, wigs, hair and make-up departments.

Tens of thousands of people go on backstage tours a year to see the workings of this huge creative factory and we want to make 360˚ films to give people a backstage tour they could not experience even in person. We want to take people into those areas not accessible to many members of staff, into the working areas of the theatre itself. The fly towers above the stages are used to store pieces of set, which, alongside actors, can be flown in and out. The Olivier’s stage has a drum revolve – a five-storey revolving stage that can move sets and actors around and up and down during a performance. We will take you from the bottom of the drum revolve to the top of the fly tower in a revealing look behind the scenes.

While the Backstage films are in development we have begun a series of 360˚ rehearsal room films. Go inside the rehearsal room with the whole production team as they develop their show for the stage.

About Ugly Lies the Bone

Beauty is but skin deep, ugly lies the bone; beauty dies and fades away, but ugly holds its own.’

Ugly Lies the Bone, a new play by US playwright Lindsey Ferrentino, makes its European premiere in the Lyttelton Theatre in February. The production examines the use of virtual reality in treating soldiers experiencing PTSD.

Jess, a soldier returning home to Florida after three tours in Afghanistan, experiments with a pioneering virtual reality therapy. She builds a breathtaking new world where she can escape her pain. There, she begins to restore her relationships, her life and, slowly, herself.

Thanks to a unique partnership between Firsthand and the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, with technical partner HTC Vive, audiences can experience COOL!, a VR pain-control therapy similar to the one which Jess experiences in Ugly Lies the Bone, in an immersive installation front of house after performances. Firsthand has been working at the forefront of VR pain research for many years, collaborating with leading scientists including Dr Hunter Hoffman, Dr David Patterson, and Dr Thomas Furness, originally create SnowWorld, the VR pain-control therapy which inspired Ferrentino’s play Ugly Lies the Bone, and which was the precursor to COOL! .

Studies show that VR can provide effective pain relief, often better than drugs, and immersion is the key to that relief. In experimental trials with SnowWorld it was typical for at least 60% of patients to experience a reduction in pain of more than 30%. Comparatively, a dose of morphine is often calibrated to reduce pain by 25%. The more that people feel that they are present in a virtual world, the further it takes them from their pain.

When exploring Cool! after the performance, audiences can also try a ‘pain test’ where they can experience the reduction in sensitivity that using the software brings for themselves.

About alt.barbican

In early February The Barbican and The Trampery launched alt.barbican, a major new accelerator programme for innovative artists working at the intersection of arts, technology, and entrepreneurship.

Delivered in partnership with MUTEK, the British Council, and the National Theatre, this six-month programme provides opportunities and support for up to five artists whose practice falls outside traditional areas. alt.barbican will provide a range of showcase, mentoring and training opportunities within an environment in which research and discussion about this emergent field can take place and be shared.

 

Sidd Khajuria, Senior Producer at the Barbican says:

‘alt.barbican is our response to an increasingly fluid creative landscape – one in which the boundaries between individual art forms are becoming less distinct. A generation of emergent artists are drawing upon multiple disciplines to create projects that are not served by traditional exhibition and performance spaces. Being a cross-arts organisation, it’s vital the Barbican continues to support this emerging practice, and the hybrid nature of so much of this work is why we’re working in partnership with the National Theatre, MUTEK, and the British Council – all of whom are exploring similar terrain. It is, of course, wonderful to be collaborating with The Trampery once again to deliver a programme of work in this area.’

Applications for the inaugural cohort of five artists opened on 13 February and invites submissions from practitioners around the theme of ‘the subversion of reality’ Both current work and proposed future work is eligible. Enquiries might include, but are not limited, to the following:

  • Digital mimicry – exploring representations of human form and experience, the natural environment and the uncanny
  • Social interaction, creativity and enterprise – new ways of communicating, making and doing business in the age of virtual reality
  • Heightening or repressing human senses with technology – innovative techniques for viewer engagement and opportunities for emotional experiences

 

Applicants might be employing or be interested in working with the following technologies:

  • Virtual or augmented reality
  • Projection mapping
  • Ambisonic, binaural or other immersive sound formats

 

This first cohort of alt.barbican artists will receive:

  • A bespoke programme of seminars, workshops and meetings supported by leading academics, practitioners and experts. From leadership and pitch training, to advice on funding and partnerships, the programme is designed to embed an entrepreneurial way of thinking and operating into the artistic approach, encouraging divergent and hybrid forms of practice to emerge.    
  • Business tools and training to enable their practice to scale and become self-sustaining.
  • A fully funded trip to share work at Inter_Connect LDN: a genre-spanning art, culture and technology showcase produced by MUTEK, the Montreal-based festival of electronic music and digital creativity.
  • Mentorship provided by a wide range of established professionals, including from the National Theatre and their Immersive Storytelling Studio team. These mentors will be appointed in response to the specific needs and practice areas of individual artists.
  • The opportunity to apply for an alt.barbican commissioning fund of £7,500 to realise a major piece or body of work in the Barbican’s public spaces.
  • The opportunity to forge international connections through our partnership with the British Council’s Creative Economy Team.
  • Events to showcase research and works-in-progress as part of Interfaces Monthly – a programme of talks and events delivered across the Barbican and The Trampery’s venues. These events allow audiences to experience inspirational work which pushes the boundaries of fine art and technology, and hear from the artists who create them.

 

Additional support includes:

  • A £1,500 honorarium for participating in the programme.
  • Unlimited drop-in access at The Trampery Republic, a new space for creative innovation at East India Dock, where the selected artists will form part of a growing network of creative businesses and start-ups.

alt.barbican is delivered by the Barbican and The Trampery; in partnership with the British Council, MUTEK and the National Theatre; and supported by Arts Council England.

Further details and how to apply here.

For all the latest alt.barbican news follow: #altbarbican

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