New tech will improve immersion in theatre for D/deaf audiences

Drama and performance experts at the University of Nottingham, in collaboration with East Midlands company Red Earth Theatre and D/deaf audience members, have developed technology to allow more D/deaf audiences to enjoy theatre.

The new tech will generate captions for dialogue much faster than traditional software and uses projection mapping to display them on the set, props and actors.

The technology is currently being used on a UK touring production of Soonchild. It will be offered free of charge to other theatre companies, alongside training on how to use it, once the tour is over.

Jo Robinson, head of drama and creative writing at the University of Nottingham, said: “We were really conscious that for deaf audiences performances are not generally immersive, as you need to keep switching focus between the action that’s happening on stage and the captions at the side or bottom of the stage.

“So our question was: can we put the captions into the action and make them an integral part of the production on stage? Our answer was to enlist the skills of researchers in our Mixed Reality Lab to develop new software to allow theatre designers to do just that.”

Red Earth Theatre co-artistic director Amanda Wilde said: “This research project with the University of Nottingham has encouraged us to evaluate our current access provision and to be more creative with how access is integrated into our future touring shows.

“As a small-scale touring company committed to providing access for D/deaf audiences, it has afforded us the space with our research colleagues, to be more ambitious and inventive in developing our access offer and to push the boundaries of captioning in theatre.”

The project has been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.


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