Project: Unlimited Theatre
Unlimited Theatre is a theatre company based in Leeds, supported by the Digital R&D Fund to produce a new reading experience for playscripts, with partners Storythings and the University of Dundee.
Research Report Insights
What they did
Unlimited Theatre and its partners aimed to reimagine the theatrical script for the 21st century and digitally native audiences. They wanted to explore ways in which digital technology might be able to retain more of the individual experience of the immersive qualities of live performance.
The research question was:
Can mobile digital storytelling develop and broaden audience engagement with playscripts?
The project explored a process of co-design through delivering four community labs that worked with participants selected from in and around Leeds, thereby inviting potential end users to play an active part in the development of the new digital format.
The project has resulted in the release of an open digital platform, uneditions.com, and a beta version of a digital playscript for The Noise. It includes elements of sound, lighting and atmosphere produced through live theatre performance, crafted using technology for people to open at home.
Project in action
The project unearthed a number of innovative digital storytelling techniques based on the live experience, and industry response to the concept has been strong.
Visitor numbers (1,250 within two months of launch) were lower than expected originally because delays in completing and publishing the prototype meant that it came after live performances of the Noise. The partners instead focussed on an industry-facing release with the marketing budget re-allocated to publishing two further playtexts with two different partners.
Priority areas for future development work on the format include: integrating social media and personal note-making; creating offline functionality and a more stable reading experience; building the platform (creating a process that does not require third-party support) and the website (to be developed as a shop window) and adding payment functionality.
Download the report to find out what the partners learned.
Tips and tricks
The community lab process has resulted in a code of practice for future co-design activity in digital R&D for the arts, which has been published as part of this project.
Other take-aways from the project include:
- Using digital effects carefully – Audio and visual enhancement of reading experiences can be powerful tools that require careful attention to the level of image and sound resolution.
- Engaging end-users early on – Iterative community labs are a powerful platform for community innovation, generating rich insights.
- Being open to user input – Co-design requires agile and adaptable technology developers to respond to the disruptive challenge of a convergent development process.
Matt Locke from Storythings talks about the need to be sensitive to different working rhythms when working on collaborative projects.
There was a pivot point in the co-design process where we decided to build the product as an HTML5 web application rather than as a native mobile app. Throughout the…
The Community Lab is a group of people who will play a key part in the project design and development process – and we recruited them using a mixture of…
We have decided to focus on producing paper prototypes during our first development phase, instead of delivering a mechanical/technical prototype as originally planned. We made this decision as a result…
Tools & methods
We used technical prototypes both as a proof of concept for our digital playscript project, and also as a tool with which early-stage products can be tested with end users….
The Community Labs we are running as part of the design process are workshop sessions with 20-30 volunteers interested in the project. Key themes which arose from our first Community…