Extended Reality Ecosystems: Innovations in Creativity and Collaboration in the Theatrical Arts

Helen Kennedy, Sarah Atkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This article maps aspects of the current Extended Reality (XR) production ecosystem in the UK, capturing a unique industry at its moment of emergence. The last three years have seen an increase in activity by traditional theatre institutions in the UK producing and distributing VR and 360-degree video content. These projects have been made possible through interdisciplinary collaborations, which we are proposing as a ‘virtual reality production ecosystem’ in which a traditional art institution, a global technology partner and a group of creatives, artists, and technologists all join together in an innovative ‘showcase’ project. The ‘ecosystem’ notion has become somewhat of a buzz term in recent years – used to account for the organising principles of the creative industries, in this article, we adapt the descriptive and analytical value of this terminology through its application to four case-studies of VR or 360-degree video from 2015-16, produced by the National Theatre (Fabulous.Wonderland), English National Ballet (Giselle), The Royal Opera House (Nabucco) and Royal Shakespeare Company (The Tempest). We examine how each collaboration was initiated and formed, and how each project relates to government and institutional directives and policy, in the context of a technology at its point of emergence. Through interviews with a stakeholder from each of these projects, we explore the value system which emerges from within these ecosystems, including revenue generation, new artistic experimentations, audience engagement and the growth of innovation communities. Crucially, we consider how the theatrical arts in the UK is spearheading innovations and advances in Extended Reality, Virtual Reality and 360-degree video production, distribution, and audience engagement.
Original languageEnglish
JournalRefractory: A Journal of Entertainment Media
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jul 2018


  • virtual reality
  • Theatre
  • Arts practice
  • Innovation

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