The future of theatre

The future of theatre: Holograms, audience becomes director and Downton the Musical
From the box to the box office: Downton Abbey & Sherlock Holmes tipped as next big thing
British theatre goers would love to see 3D tech, holograms and robots on stage
The theatre stalls influencing the action on stage in real time via social media
With over two in three Brits describing themselves as avid theatre goers, we are officially a nation of theatre lovers and, as the latest research from reveals, theatres could stun audiences with exciting innovations in the future.

For the ‘Future of the Theatre’ report, commissioned by – one of the UK’s largest theatre ticketing agents – 25 top theatre insiders* and 2,000 British theatre goers were surveyed**. It found that 61% of experts believe the next 10 years will see dramatic changes within the theatre world, with big names from the world of movies, celebrity and much loved TV shows predicted by those in the know to take centre stage.

Technological innovations will also take a leading role: shows will become increasingly immersive and interactive, more cutting edge technology will be used and audiences will direct the action on stage in real time using social media.

These trends get standing ovations from those British theatre goers who pack out the houses on average five times a year – mainly because they want to be entertained (83%), enjoy a live experience (54%) and be immersed in a different reality (31%).

Celebrities and movie stars hitting the stage is already helping sell out theatres nationwide. So unsurprisingly there is much demand for some of our favourite TV dramas to also be recreated on stage and this could be the next big thing in theatre. 64% of theatre insiders tip TV show stage adaptation to be a success. In fact, almost three in five (57%) of British theatre goers would buy tickets if their favourite TV show came to the stage. They would most like the ‘British classics’ Sherlock Holmes and Downton Abbey to be brought to life on stage. These shows were closely followed by Game of Thrones, Dr Who and Breaking Bad.

TV series British theatre goers would like to see on stage

Sherlock Holmes (29%)
Downton Abbey (23%)
Games of Thrones (20%)
Breaking Bad (16%)
Dr Who (15%)
Brits love this idea so much that almost a third of them (30%) would actually be up for buying a ‘box set’ if their favourite TV show was brought onto the theatre stage. This would mean swapping the sofa for the stalls and going to the theatre to watch several episodes – for example making a regular trip every Sunday.

The Great British Bake Off was even in the top 10 as voted of Brits, demonstrating how reality TV could play its role in the theatre world. And just like TV shows, film adaptations are a big draw for theatre goers: films such as the King’s Speech have already been successful on the stage, and now 26% of the British public would be most interested in seeing Mark Darcy and Bridget’s giant knickers in a stage production of Bridget Jones’s Diary.

Big screen actors were found to be a big draw for audiences, and those surveyed even favoured a role swap between Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and David Tennant as Dr Who. When asked which actors they would love to see play the key roles, Brits favoured ex-Dr Who actor David Tennant to tread the boards as Sherlock Holmes (17%), reversing roles with Benedict Cumberbatch who Brits would most like to see play the Doctor (22%). The favourite to play the Doctor’s glamourous assistant was Emma Watson (26%).

Brits’ dream castings on stage

Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes – David Tennant (17%)
The Doctor, Dr Who – Benedict Cumberbatch (22%)
Dr Who’s assistant, Dr Who – Emma Watson (26%)
Lady Grantham, Downton Abbey – Judi Dench (20%)
Jon Snow, Game of Thrones – Orlando Bloom (9%)

Technology transforms theatre – from hologram to Instagram

The curtain is about to rise for mobile phones to be kept on and actually used during a show – think directing Mamma Mia through a Facebook ‘like’, commenting on Hamlet’s next move on Twitter or instagramming and influencing a costume change. 63% of British theatre goers and by 95% of the experts predict technology being integrated into theatre performances more than ever before in the future. Nearly two in five (36%) of Brits think 3D tech, holograms coming out into the auditorium and robots would make theatre even more exciting. In fact, Hollywood superstar Liam Neeson will appear as the 3D holographic narrator in ‘Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds’ musical from February 2016 on London’s West End.

But who wants to just watch when you can take part: the research found that audiences could potentially be able to influence story lines in real time through the use of social media according to more than a third (36%) of the experts questioned. They even anticipate that theatre lovers will be able to direct live performances from the comfort of their sofa at home via streaming technologies. Three in four believe techie innovations are important to attract a younger generation and imagine for this audience for example Wi-Fi in the venue, and in seat experience including smell and touch will really appeal.

Alistair Smith, Editor of The Stage, the world’s longest-running publication for the performing arts industry, comments: “Whilst traditional theatre will remain dominant, immersive theatre will continue to expand over the next ten years. Punchdrunk’s shows, which have pioneered placing audiences with an immersive theatrical world, have been great examples of how this work can reach out to new audiences and work commercially. As our lives become more and more virtual, people will want their theatre experiences to become increasingly real and immersive. I’d expect to see more companies experimenting with work in non-theatre spaces, perhaps paired with themed bars, restaurants and parties, and utilising mobile digital technology to involve the audience in a production.”
Smith continues: “Holograms, or 3D technology, have already been used pretty extensively in pantomime and the report suggests there’s an appetite for this to be rolled out to theatre more generally. Certainly, there has been an increased use of projection in theatre design in recent years and you’d expect this to continue.”

Amanda Cumine, Director of Brand Marketing, at, comments: “West End Theatres are British institutions and constantly live up to their reputation by not only keeping up beloved theatre traditions but also by striving to be hugely innovative, so like an encore we keep coming back for more. Incredible acting performances, stunning staging and the excitement of the live experience will always wow us. And to capture our imagination even more, theatre experts predict that the rapid development of technologies like social media and immersive experiences will be what leads the theatre into the future.
She continues: “Many of today’s most famous shows were originally born out of popular culture or films – think Mamma Mia, Thriller Live and the latest addition, Elf – so it’s hardly surprising that Brits are now keen to see the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Who making their West End theatre debuts. Who knows – perhaps we’ll see The Great British Shake Off musical soon enough with a Mary Berry lookalike singing all about cakes while the audience are powering the performance through tweets!