Digital puppetry and the supernatural
Double Ariel in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s The Tempest (2017)
in Shakespeare and the supernatural
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Recent puppet theory engages with how this ancient form exists in dialogue with contemporary digital technologies. In 2017, the Royal Shakespeare Company mounted an ambitious production of The Tempest in which Mark Quarterly’s performance as Ariel was rendered alongside a digital puppet through the use of live motion capture technology. This chapter examines how the hardware and software used by the RSC and Intel to render Quarterly’s ‘Double Ariel’ engages with The Tempest’s themes of liminality, and specifically Ariel’s liminal textual status as a supernatural entity. By deconstructing the technical systems used to render Ariel’s avatar in this production, the chapter also explores processes of iterative ‘technodramaturgy’ – the interplay between traditional dramaturgies and the innate, often concealed dramaturgies of technical systems themselves (software, hardware or mechanical). In the RSC Tempest, this technodramaturgy heightened the wonder and spectacle of Shakespeare’s sprite, leading to theatrical discoveries around rendering the supernatural through digital puppetry.

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