A university has been berated for embarking on an expensive virtual reality Shakespeare project – after firing its bard experts to cut costs.
Portsmouth’s Creative and Cultural Industries faculty collaborated on the Royal Shakespeare Company’s VR performance ‘Dream’ – an idea initiated by a teacher that later became obsolete.
An academic made fun of the situation, saying, “They have a VR Shakespeare project that they defend, but they no longer have Shakespeareans or anyone with any Renaissance expertise on the English literature team.”
The bosses at the University of Portsmouth fired more than half of the department of English literature last year, including two lecturers specializing in early modernism.
The ward was cleared from 13 to six to six last summer as part of a redundancy process.
Portsmouth University is berated for embarking on expensive virtual reality Shakespeare project – after firing only two bard experts to cut costs
The bosses at the University of Portsmouth fired more than half of the 13 staff of the English Literature Department last year, including two teachers specializing in early modernism
‘Dream’ was inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, but the highly regarded university now has no staff specializing in the pre-1800 period – Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1595.
The 50-minute production, performed in a motion capture room at The Guildhall, Portsmouth, Hants, ran from 12 to 20 March, cost £ 10 per ticket and was supported by the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, provided by UK Research and Innovation.
Nearly £ 40 million has been invested in government development of new immersive technologies.
The university described the project as ‘Bringing Shakespeare to life’ and was supported by a team from the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industry.
The academic, who worked in college for more than 10 years before losing his job as part of the budget cuts, added, ‘bragging about’ bringing things to life ‘at a time when you don’t have anyone doing anything substantial related to bringing technology together with heritage and the Shakespeare brand, it just seems so hypocritical.
‘I can’t imagine why the RSC or anyone else would work with a university that is cutting back all of its staff that had anything to do with Shakespeare in the beginning.
‘The stripping of education to the bone. They fired people at a time of a national pandemic when they didn’t have to financially. ‘
In February last year, students protested the dismissal of English literature teachers and a Twitter account called ‘Save English Literature at Portsmouth £ UCU’ was set up.
‘Dream’ was inspired by William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream, but the highly regarded university now has no staff specializing in the pre-1800 period – Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1595
The university is further criticized for ‘urgently’ removing web pages from its site featuring previous Shakespeare projects carried out by Portsmouth University staff and students, including a VR workshop.
A VR simulation for users to ‘visit’ the Globe was part of Much Ado About Portsmouth (MAAP), a wider project organized and run by staff and students of English literature.
Despite being online since 2015, the MAAP site has now been decommissioned, meaning that both the staff and students who worked on the project have lost public employment.
The Twitter account ‘SaveUoPLit’ called this ‘another attack on the legacy’ of early modernists looted by the university.
The University of Portsmouth is one of the top 25 UK universities and is one of only four in the South East to hold gold in the Government Teaching Excellence Framework.
It has a number of notable alumni from the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage to Baroness Diana Maddock.
The website describes Portsmouth as the ‘perfect place to study literature’ where students build their ‘knowledge of literature from Shakespeare to the present day’.
The BA English Literature course offers an optional module called ‘Bloody Shakespeare’ where students study Shakespeare’s ‘most fascinating plays’ such as Richard II and Henry V.
A University of Portsmouth spokesperson said today that it has partnered with the RSC on the live performance because of ‘the reputation and expertise of our creative technology and performance teams here in Portsmouth’.
The spokesman said: ‘The artistic vision and creative supervision of the project came from the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The production was performed with seven actors in a specially created motion capture room at The Guildhall in Portsmouth. A team from the University of Portsmouth’s Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industry supported the technical production.
Dream is a groundbreaking project that combines live performances with virtual reality and gaming technology to bring immersive theater to audiences wherever they are in the world.
The University was invited to collaborate on Dream by the Royal Shakespeare Company because of the reputation and expertise of our creative technology and performance teams here in Portsmouth.
‘Our hope and expectation is that by being involved in exciting and innovative projects such as the RSC’s Dream, we will encourage young people to study English literature and creative arts at university and show the incredible opportunities and careers that lie ahead . ‘