National Theatre announces an immersive holographic performance in partnership with Microsoft

The National Theatre announces All Kinds of Limbo XR, an immersive holographic performance to be experienced simultaneously across the world, as part of a major new partnership with Microsoft

The National Theatre has announced All Kinds of Limbo XR, which, for the first time, will allow audiences worldwide to experience the same communal musical performance simultaneously in a number of different ways: via a Virtual Reality headset, as Augmented Reality on a phone or tablet, or as a desktop experience. The project is supported by Microsoft, as part of a new partnership with the National Theatre, that looks to democratise access to new forms of immersive work based on the technologies that audiences have available to them.

Tickets are on sale for performances from 18 January 2022 onwards.

Audiences in Virtual Reality will experience the immersive show at life-size scale, sharing the performance space with the volumetrically captured performers and a communal audience, moving around the space together. Those with mobile phones or tablets can place the performance in their own physical environment using Augmented Reality. And those with a desktop or laptop computer can enter and move around the performance space similar to that of a video game.

The National Theatre is partnering with DICE to provide all tickets for these digital performances including to international audiences in respective worldwide timezones.

The performance that audiences will experience is All Kinds of Limbo, a unique musical performance that was developed alongside the NT’s 2019 production of Andrea Levy’s award-winning novel Small Island. Writer and vocalist Nubiya Brandon, composer Raffy Bushman and the Nu Shape Orchestra take the audience on a musical journey inspired by the influence of Caribbean culture on the UK’s music scene, with Nubiya telling her own story of a life in limbo across the genres of reggae, grime, classical and calypso.

Immersive technologies, the ceremony of live performance, and the craft of theatrical staging transport audiences into the heart of Nubiya’s performance space. In creating this experience the NT utilised Microsoft’s mixed reality capture technology to record holographic performances of Nubiya which were then placed in the virtual environments.

All Kinds of Limbo was first presented at the National Theatre in 2019 as a communal VR experience alongside the production of Small Island in the Olivier theatre. It then had its international premiere at Sundance Film Festival in January 2020 and was at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November 2020.

Toby Coffey, Founder of the National Theatre’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, said: “With each project our studio aims to push, in an appropriate way, the evolution of the form and the audience experience. With this project we asked the question – how can we create a ‘universal performance space’ where audiences can experience one performance in differing formats that suit their technology, their needs and their preferences? I’m delighted we’ve been able to develop this idea and present All Kinds of Limbo across VR, AR and desktop versions, giving international audiences access to the piece. It’s been fantastic to work again with the composer and musician Raffy Bushman and lyricist and vocalist Nubiya Brandon on this beautiful piece of music and on Nubiya’s story once more. We couldn’t have launched this today without our partners Microsoft, the support from DICE, Dimension Studios and All Seeing Eye. It is an honour to be working with such leaders in technology on this ground-breaking new project.”

Writer, vocalist and performer Nubiya Brandon said: “All Kinds of Limbo is an incredibly important piece to me. We take the audience on a journey through the UK’s kaleidoscopic musical movements and by doing so, two stories are placed alongside each other: a timeline of my own accord of the cultural and social changes since the Windrush with an insight into the catalogue of musical memorabilia that I see as a warped cultural understanding of myself. And also my own story of a life in limbo: the struggles of being born with estranged roots, striving for an identity that is uncertain – whilst purely being a product of my surroundings. I’m so delighted that international audiences will be able to experience it in multiple forms.”

Ryan Gaspar, Director of Strategic Partnerships for Microsoft, said: “We’re incredibly excited to partner with the National Theatre on this ground-breaking new performance of All Kinds of Limbo XR. Not only does it leverage the most innovative technology to democratize shared experiences, but Nubiya’s story of identity is at the heart of what will truly connect audiences on an emotional level.”

To accompany All Kinds of Limbo XR an outtake of the soundtrack will be available as a single release on all major music streaming platforms, exclusively distributed by Broadway Records. The single is called All Kinds of Limbo – Calypso and features the music of Raffy Bushman and Nubiya Brandon. Listen here on YouTube or Spotify.

All Kinds of Limbo XR was developed from research funded by Innovate UK, the national innovation agency. This underpinned the development of a universal performance space based on eXtended Reality (XR), encompassing virtual, augmented and mixed reality experiences.

Watch the trailer here.