Real-time motion capture performance merges with audience participation, live video-projection and virtual reality to create a pioneering theatrical experience exploring disembodiment in the modern world.

A solo performer, swivel chairs, and a whole heap of computing power bring to life the story of an elderly man with dementia, his conspiracy-theory minded son, and their Salvadoran carer. Wayne, a frustrated IT guy, sees his life turned upside-down when the enigmatic Esperanza arrives to look after his father.

Might there be another reason for Dad’s illness? And do the neighbourhood crows have anything to do with it? Using real-time motion capture, we bring an ensemble of Americana to life, as a chase across California becomes a journey of acceptance. The performance is tracked in front of the audience’s eyes, with volunteers invited onstage to wear a VR headset. The volunteer point-of-view is projected on to large-scale screens, becoming the “camera” for the unfolding story. What the volunteer sees, the audience sees. It’s a bold new way of creating live theatre and connecting people through cutting-edge, future-facing technology.

Intended audience: This performance will attract the typically digitally savvy, who share experiences through social media on their smartphones, and we will encourage a new generation to experience live theatre through an online story campaign. Fatherland also matches the interests and experiences of a more mature theatre audience who may be experiencing dementia through a family member or friend.

Creator’s Statement

As I daydreamed about making theatre with motion capture technology, my Dad napped on the sofa. He suffers from Parkinson’s-induced dementia, and spends a lot of time somewhere else. It took me a long time to accept that he would never fully come back from that place.

Technical summary

Fatherland is a live performance that uses real-time motion capture, virtual reality and audience interaction. We use an HTC Vive headset and nine Vive trackers driven by Ikinema Orion and streamed into Unreal Engine, which are then re-targeted to the characters using Ikinema Live Action. The live theatrical element provides unexpected approaches to the equipment, opening up un-thought potential. The set-up is affordable, transportable, and tourable.

Motion capture takes physical information from our body and transforms it. In that process of disembodiment, I saw my Dad reflected. The emotional impact of the personal material resonated with a question implicit in the technology: in a world that increasingly invites us out of our bodies, where does reality sit?

Prototype platform: HTVC Vive

Final experience platform: A stage: in theatres, schools, community centres, galleries, village halls

Distribution method: Location-based (physical)

Primary production type: Live theatre incorporating real-time rendered experience

Team profile

Limbik is an award-winning theatre company that creates new work exploring human stories from epic environments. Distilling often-unheard voices into atmospheric works of theatre, the company investigate socially engaged questions, aiming to encourage debate and dialogue.

The University of Portsmouth delights in creating, sharing and applying knowledge to make a difference to individuals and society. The Motion Capture Studio has been involved in Motion Capture for over 10 years, capturing all kinds of action from gymnastics, break dancing, martial arts to modern dance and theatrical performances.

Laura Doye has been an executive producer for national and international live performance work for over fifteen years. As Artistic Director of a major regional theatre, she originated a new artistic vision entitled The Creative Technology Gateway.

Project team details:

Ben Samuels — Writer, Performer, Co-Director

Juan Ayala — Co-Director & Dramaturg

Alex Counsell — Technical Producer

Laura Doye — Executive Producer

Marc Cook— Lead technical artist

Adam Cleaver — Lead developer

Past work:

2017-2018, “The Forecast””

2016-2018, “Macondo”

2017, “Always Moving”

2016, “Games With Waterhorse”

2015, “The Messenger”

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