October 24, 2019 – Magic Leap, in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), has announced the launch of ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ on Magic Leap World, a concept that brings the stage, the players, and Shakespeare’s ‘As You Like It’ to spatial computing.
In 2018, the company announced a new partnership with the RSC, working together to build theatrical experiences using spatial computing. As part of the collaboration, Magic Leap created a Fellowships program, joining forces with i2 Media Research Limited at Goldsmiths University of London, University of Portsmouth and NESTA. The program provided an opportunity to use the developing technology to find new ways for people to experience theater and Shakespeare, placing the craft of theater-making in new contexts and breaking new ground in live performance.
Having worked together on the Fellowships program, Magic Leap started experimenting with the RSC. According to the company, The Seven Ages project began in April 2018 with a series of test recordings that explored a range of performance styles, from the subtle to the highly physical and expansive. Magic Leap stated it was looking for a style of delivery that worked with spatial computing and tested the capabilities of its new volumetric studio in Culver City. The recordings captured the essence of the actor’s performance and were an essential reference for what came next, according to Magic Leap.
RSC Artistic Director Gregory Doran chose to focus on one of Shakespeare’s most famous monologues: “The Seven Ages of Man” speech from As You Like It. The narrative exists inside the viewer’s environment as they interact with both the physical world and digital objects within it.
The piece is presented as a ‘tabletop theater’ concept, which allows the viewer to choose where to place the stage. They are then able to walk around it to view the performance from every angle.
A single actor, Robert Gilbert, delivers the speech standing on grass at the foot of a tree. As he speaks, the set cycles through the seasons to reflect the different ages of man, and each season has its own distinct colour treatment: yellow/green for spring, bright gold for summer, orangey-red for autumn and blue/grays for winter. On delivering the final line, “sans everything”, the actor disintegrates and returns to stardust and oblivion, as indicated by the motes of light that open and close the piece.
To complete the concept, Magic Leap added a composition by BAFTA award-winning composer Jessica Curry that responds to and compliments Gilbert’s performance. Full spatial audio was recorded for the experience, so that the voice audio is spatially linked to the actor’s position in the environment. The spatial sound design also extends to the tree: leaves rustle and birds sing when users lean into it, adding a vital part to the concept by allowing users to sense that these digital objects are in the room with them.
Magic Leap stated that: “This piece represents the first step on a much longer journey toward reimagining theater, performance, and the audience experience.” The company added, “We are continuing to collaborate with the RSC and are now expanding the possibilities of performance with the Audience of the Future project—a consortium of 14 partners all dedicated to exploring the future of live performance. Through prototyping, testing and innovation, we are working together to find new, sustainable ways to experience live theater.”
The piece premiered at LEAP Con in October 2018, then appeared at Sundance and SXSW. Following a positive response, everyone can now experience the concept on Magic Leap World.
Image credit: Magic Leap
About the author
Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.