Office of Everyone

Through the Cracks AR

A phone-based AR theatre experience sharing undervalued stories that have fallen through the cracks, both figuratively and literally.

Through the Cracks AR

Through the Cracks is a phone and tablet-based Augmented Reality (AR) theatre experience developed in collaboration with the English Touring Theatre (ETT). ETT has been touring ambitious theatre around the UK and the world since the 1940s. They physically take theatre to communities that otherwise would not have access. We approached ETT with the initial idea for Through the Cracks, presenting it as the digital evolution of this rich history. The project aims to improve access to new theatre, writing and performance through ubiquitous mobile technologies (phones and tablets).

AR traditionally involves adding to objects, people and spaces. However, these embellishments exist within the established, often discriminatory, social structures of our physical world. Departing from AR traditions, Through the Cracks employs AR to create new, extended spaces for storytelling and expression. This unconventional interpretation of AR is not a virtual space, fully detached from the physical world, it is a liminal space between worlds that can be used to communicate undervalued and overlooked stories. The title ‘Through the Cracks’ refers to both the method of experiencing the piece, looking down through cracks in your floor, and the metaphor of exploring stories that have been ignored or missed by society.

Using a phone or tablet, audiences witness a virtual opening appear on the physical floor beneath them. Through this fault line, they observe a story unfold, performed by real humans. Much of the story is experienced from overhead as the performance appears under the floor of the physical world. This method of presenting stories through AR has an intimate nature compared to linear, recorded media. When the actor breaks the fourth wall, the viewer feels as though they are looking directly into their eyes.

The methods developed for the project involved digitising actors, dialogue, scenery and light to lock these elements away in an accessible and repeatable format. The audience experiencing the AR through their own device, in their own space, brings these frozen digital elements back to life in their environment through physical movement.

During early development stages, we held a number of writers rooms to experiment with how to write for an entirely new form. For the first prototype, we worked with the amazing playwright Dipo Baruwa-Etti, and developed a powerful story following two west African migrants on a journey to England.

For this premiere piece, we worked with award-winning writer Sonali Bhattacharyya to develop 'In Time', a queer, time travelling love story, narrated by Sir Ian McKellen. The piece comprises two four minute scenes that can be experienced together or with a break.

In addressing the typical barriers to accessing theatre, we simultaneously explore how innovation in “live” performance can mitigate the art-form’s environmental impact. This new digital form reduces many of the carbon intensive aspects of traditional touring theatre such as transportation.

  • Image from set. Birds eye view of two characters looking up at the camera, stood on an old wooden floor.
    Production photograph
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