Virtually relevant: AR/VR and the theatre

Shane Pike

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The relevance of the embodied actor and theatre maker is potentially tested alongside advances and emergences in performative technology, specifically Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR and VR). However, the general notion emerging amongst theorists, practitioners and academics seems to be favouring an evolutionary collaboration between these somewhat disparate disciplines: the former emerging from and refined over thousands of years of artistic development, the latter finding its more recent birth in entertainment and gaming. Rather than a consumption of art in a gamification of storytelling through emergent technologies, it is argued that tools of AR and VR will soon be used to enhance live, embodied narrative through dramatic storytelling and together these forms will generate a new style and technique of immersive theatre that takes artists and makers to the next stage of human creativity. Relevance, then, will be ensured through the consideration of the audience and their place in the theatrical event, as well as through up- and re-skilling of theatre makers, performers and actors in this technology in order to democratise its usefulness. Theatre’s long and proud history of subsuming emergent technologies for its own purposes also provides a blueprint for adoption of these future technologies. There are also significant and important opportunities for applied theatre and socially engaged arts practice to incorporate the technology into its forms, particularly in support of new and experimental research in healthcare. The current limitations of AR/VR on the dramatic stage are undeniable, yet by focusing on the experiential and communal nature of theatre the technology and the art can be reconciled into a new and innovative expression in the theatre arts. This new age of making should begin in the conservatory and academy for multiple reasons but will eventually spread to independent artists. The technician and theatre maker will combine, enabling a future for the stage that we cannot yet envisage.


Virtual Reality; Augmented Reality; Theatre; Performance; Drama; Practice-led Research

To cite this article

Pike, Shane. “Virtually Relevant: AR/VR and the Theatre.” Fusion Journal, no. 17, 2020, pp. 120-128.

First published online: April 2020

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