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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

Chapter 4 - ‘Tech-Enabled’ Theatre at the RSC: Digital Performance and Gregory Doran’s Tempest (RSC, 2016)

from Part II - Digital Technologies and Early Modern Drama at the National Theatre and the RSC


The RSC’s approach to digital innovation differs from the National Theatre’s in that it was – in line with the company’s mission – more focused specifically on productions of Shakespeare and distributed across a wider range of activities and partnerships. When Michael Boyd took over the RSC’s Artistic Direction in 2003, he returned the company to its founding principle of using an ensemble dedicated to staging world-class productions of Shakespeare. Boyd recognised the impact of the internet and of how, in a ‘collaborative model, the input of the “consumer” is assumed to improve the product of the “producer” and to lead to a better outcome for both’. This is why, in a speech at the New York Public Library in 2010, he proclaimed his wish to include ‘the audience as part of this ensemble as well’, with the aim of offering ‘a better, more honest, more active and intimate relationship … between the performer and the audience’. This chapter examines how the RSC sought to create such an ‘active and intimate relationship’ with its audiences through digital performances in partnership with tech companies. I track the company’s ever more ambitious journey that led from its first forays into collaborative social media productions with Such Tweet Sorrow and A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming to its most advanced digital partnership with Intel and Imaginarium Studios on the 2016 Tempest, a production that set out to ‘break new frontiers in live storytelling’.

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