New Beginning, a groundbreaking theatre project, aims to innovate in the mid-scale theatre scene by celebrating the art of designed theatre. Unlike traditional productions, this unique experience harnesses the power of stage design to captivate audiences, drawing them into a moving and immersive theatrical journey.
The show’s concept delves into the enigmatic world of forests, exploring both the hidden depths beneath the soil and the soaring heights of tree canopies. To achieve this, cutting-edge technologies, such as immersive sound, multiscreen video projections, and generative video art, are employed to unveil the unseen aspects of nature and create a mesmerising spectacle. The collaborative effort behind this ambitious project involves Queen’s Theatre Hornchurch, design studio Variable Matter, and the new digital Performance Lab at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. Our fruitful partnership, which has grown over time, extends beyond the realm of traditional theatre, supporting technical youth theatre provision and various community-oriented placemaking projects, including last summer’s The Rising Sun (2022), an installation in Romford Market celebrating the voices of 100 local people, and The People’s Kitchen (2023) a community food project in Rainham.
The journey began with the exploration of integrating video projection into the world of design.
Labmeta, a digital design studio, utilises worldbuilding software to craft computer-generated 3D elements that reveal the hidden wonders of the natural world. These elements are strategically woven into the performance, enhancing the sense of depth and wonder within the space through dynamic multiscreen projections.
Composer James Bulley has been commissioned to create an evocative sound composition, immersing the audience in the forest’s intricate soundscape. The rich symphony of roots, mycelia, and nature’s vibrant orchestra fills the auditorium through a meticulously crafted system of 30 speakers, enveloping the spectators in the heart of the action without ever needing to leave your seats.
Nature writer and journalist, Zakiya McKenzie, contributes a poetic text that ignites contemplation about our lives, what we leave behind, and how we can rebuild our world. Presented in the form of an audiobook, the text guides the audience through the unfolding world of the forest, utilising the space’s speakers to enhance the immersive experience.
In a departure from traditional theatrical norms, light becomes a prominent and active storytelling element in New Beginning. Joshua Gadsby’s visual world immerses the spectators in the radiant light of the sun, leaving a lasting impression long after the forest has vanished. Light is not merely an accompaniment but an integral part of the production, guiding the audience on an emotional and visual journey.
Engaging over 200 young people aged 11-18, the production actively involves them in co-creating the show, inspiring their wonder for forests and incorporating their talents.
Little Ilford School, with the support of drama lead Sally Probett, and Young People’s Director James Watson, play a vital role in engaging students in movement and text workshops that contributed to the show’s content. Members of QTH’s Youth Theatre and Young Company also participate as voice-overs and appearances within the production, making it a profound way to reimagine our collective future.
Variable Matter, renowned for creating immersive theatrical environments, has received multiple world-stage design awards. New Beginning offers a chance for audiences in Hornchurch to experience something truly different – a beautiful and powerful event theatre piece. The production takes pride in pushing the boundaries of storytelling through risk-taking and inspiring new forms of expression both on and off the stage.
As the creators of this one-of-a-kind experience, we invite all to join us on this extraordinary journey, where art, technology, and storytelling intertwine to redefine the possibilities of theatre.
David Shearing Director and Designer
Mark your calendars
On Friday 1 September, we have an exciting panel conversation lined up for you. Join us as we bring together artists, academics, and theatre makers to delve into the digital and design aspects of our production, exploring their broader impact in the UK.
And that’s not all!
On Saturday 2 September, we invite you to be a part of QTH’s Forest Day. This special event will feature stalls, engaging activities, enlightening talks, and much more, all thoughtfully curated to foster a deeper connection with our natural world. Keep a close eye on our website for further updates and details on both of these incredible events.