For the new play Ugly Lies the Bone, which opened at the National Theatre on London‘s South Bank last week, Es Devlin created a virtual-reality themed scenario. Using a bowl-shaped set as the canvas for video projections for a play which follows an injured soldier undergoing virtual-reality therapy.
The protagonist is a soldier named Jess with debilitating burns from an IED in Afghanistan. Now, back home, she is using virtual-therapy simulating experiences to relief her pain. Devlin has created a map of the small town of Titusville, Florida, which curves up around the stage.
Devlin has created a map of Jess’s small town of Titusville, Florida, which curves up around the stage. To assemble the scenario, models of 2,000 buildings, applied by hand by the National Theatre Scenic workshop, protrude from the surface of the map.
The screen creates a rounded backdrop for moving images that simulate the world as if seen through a VR headset, including rolling snowy mountains. These images contrast the wireframes and night-time shots that are projected to indicate the reality of daily life.
“The set is a bowl-shaped map of Titusville, Florida, a now dwindling small American town originally born out of the national optimism of the now-defunct space shuttle program at Cape Canaveral,” said Devlin.
“The action oscillates fast between the epic arctic vistas she experiences within her VR headset, and oppressive small domestic settings where she attempts to re-engage with what’s left of her life.”
To create Jess’ family living room, along with a wall of picture frames Devlin has placed furniture on wheels. A purple rectangular volume attached to four poles also extends from above to create the ceiling in this scene and is lowered further to represent a rooftop in another.
Ugly Lies the Bone is on show at the National Theatre‘s Lyttelton Theatre until 6 June 2017.
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