Abhann Productions (the team behind Riverdance) led by John McColgan and Moya Doherty, approached us during the development phase of their production, Heartbeat of Home.
They were looking to bring a fresh perspective to the stage environment and to imbue the production with a distinct sense of modernity through the use of innovation. Their vision was to create a new expression of Irish dance that is relevant to today’s audience without compromising on standards of performance or production.
In response to this challenging but exciting brief, the team pushed the boundaries of standard production methods, while maintaining respect for the artistry of theatre.
To achieve this, we used the latest in projection technology, digital mapping software and GPS-enabled automated rigging to create the stage setting for the entire show. The team developed 16 unique scenes to work alongside the narrative of the Dream Voyage. These varied from sea storms to cityscapes to desert mountain ranges. Each scene was created digitally, modelled, textured and animated with up to 30 composite layers. This culminated in over two hours of footage and a massive three terabytes of data for presentation in a panoramic widescreen experience using 16 projectors. By embracing digital technology, we were able to enhance the power of storytelling in a way that had not been done previously.
The final solution was a fully immersive stage environment that captured the imagination of an ever-evolving audience. Not only did our approach transform the audience experience, it also brought with it logistical and financial benefits. The use of digital scenery reduced the rigging set-up time from approximately seven days to one. The number of trucks needed to transport the set was also minimised, dropping from approximately ten to three. A significant part of the show could be ‘turned on’ only 30 minutes before the curtain went up and the number of stage hands required was reduced through the use of GPS rigging. In particular, our solution meant that the restriction on the number of possible sets, which generally ranges from about four to six, was overcome and our technology enables up to 20 different sets for any production.
Alongside the immersive audience experience, we also devised and launched a digital marketing strategy for Heartbeat of Home. The brief from the client was to create publicity around the production, early on in the process. The team developed the concept for an ‘online talent search’ where prospective dancers could post audition videos, with those receiving the most votes from the public making it through to live auditions in Dublin. The site attracted over two million hits in under three weeks, with over 170 auditions videos uploaded, 1.5 million votes and a Twitter audience of over 14 million led by celebrity Tweeters, Demi Lovato and Alastair Campbell. Brighter than the Sun also created the identity for the show, along with supporting print elements such as the opening night invitation, programme, advertising and merchandising.
Following its European launch, the Heartbeat of Home production went on to sell out in China, Canada and North America.
The results were thunderous, with over 2 million hits to the site in under 3 weeks, 170 audition videos sent in with 1.5 million votes cast by the public. Social media campaigns reached a Twitter audience of over 14 million, with celebrity tweeters included Demi Lovato & Alaistair Campbell.