“Deeply affective… powerful.” – TIME
“Unlike anything you will have experienced before.” – Evening Standard
September 24, 2019 – Toronto – National Film Board of Canada
From June 23 to July 12, 2020, Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre Company and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) will present the North American premiere of Draw Me Close, a critically acclaimed immersive experience by award-winning playwright and filmmaker Jordan Tannahill, co-produced by the NFB and the National Theatre (NT) of Great Britain.
Draw Me Close blurs the worlds of live performance, virtual reality and animation to create a vivid memoir about the relationship between a mother and her son in the wake of her terminal-cancer diagnosis.
A co-production between the NFB’s Ontario Studio and the NT’s Immersive Storytelling Studio, Draw Me Close was created with creative technologists All Seeing Eye. The work features illustrations by Olie Kay as well as the late Teva Harrison, Toronto author of the graphic novel In-Between Days.
This powerful immersive work will be presented at Soulpepper’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery Historic District.
This North American premiere of Draw Me Close in Toronto follows sold-out previews at London’s Young Vic Theatre. The work-in-progress version was also showcased at the Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes and at Venice Virtual Reality at the 2017 Venice Film Festival.
Draw Me Close integrates live performance and VR into one seamless narrative, weaving theatrical storytelling with cutting-edge immersive technology. Draw Me Close allows audience members to take the part of the protagonist, Jordan, inside a live, animated world.
This experience is brought to life through live performance combined with a real-time motion-capture system transforming the environment into a captivating 3D interactive virtual world. The audience member enters the performance space and puts on a VR headset. They enter Jordan’s childhood home and move from room to room, navigating seamlessly through a world that is both physical and virtual. They are guided by Jordan’s mother, played by an actress. Her movements are translated by motion capture into the virtual world. What results is a disarmingly intimate and enthrallingly one-on-one performance that charts the lifelong relationship between a mother and her son.
The creative team
Jordan Tannahill is a playwright, author and filmmaker whose works have been produced across Canada and internationally, translated into multiple languages, and honoured with various prizes, including two Governor General’s Literary Awards.
This unique collaboration between the NFB and the NT began as a Research and Development Lab to advance the language of creative non-fiction VR. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible with dramatic storytelling, Draw Me Close, produced by David Oppenheim of the NFB and Johanna Nicholls of the National Theatre, and executive produced by Anita Lee (NFB) and Toby Coffey (NT), has emerged from the NFB/NT Lab as a groundbreaking exploration of the storytelling potential of VR and beyond.
“I’m grateful for the chance to finally share Draw Me Close with a Canadian audience, and to be doing so as part of artistic director Weyni Mengesha’s first season at Soulpepper. Draw Me Close marks the final instalment in a loose trilogy of works, which includes my novel Liminal and my play Declarations, that I have made over the last two years, meditating on my relationship with my mother and mortality,” said Jordan Tannahill.
“Working with Jordan Tannahill and the National Theatre on Draw Me Close has been an incredible journey. Jordan is one of Canada’s most innovative artists and what he’s created is so powerful-a transformational experience that manages to be both intensely personal and communal. As Weyni and executive director Emma Stenning begin a new era at Soulpepper, we’re thrilled to be partnering with them to bring this work to Canadian audiences, in the heart of Toronto,” said NFB producer David Oppenheim.
About the National Film Board of Canada
The NFB is Canada’s public producer of award-winning creative documentaries, auteur animation, interactive stories and participatory experiences. NFB producers are embedded in communities across the country, from St. John’s to Vancouver, working with talented creators on innovative and socially relevant projects. The NFB is a leader in gender equity in film and digital media production, and is working to strengthen Indigenous-led production, guided by the recommendations of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. NFB productions have won over 7,000 awards, including 24 Canadian Screen Awards, 21 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 100 Genies. To access this award-winning content and discover the work of NFB creators, visit NFB.ca, download its apps for mobile devices or visit NFB Pause.
About the National Theatre
The National Theatre makes world-class theatre that is entertaining, challenging and inspiring, and they make it for everyone. The work the NT produces appeals to the widest possible audiences with new plays, musicals, re-imagined classics and new work for young audiences. The NT’s work is seen in the West End, on tour throughout the UK and internationally, and in collaborations and co-productions with partners across the country. Through NT Live, they broadcast some of the best of British theatre to over 2,500 venues in 65 countries around the world. The NT’s Immersive Storytelling Studio examines how virtual reality, mixed reality and other emerging technologies can widen and enhance the NT’s remit to be a pioneer of dramatic storytelling and to enable an audience to stand in the shoes of another. Accenture is the National Theatre’s ‘Partner for Innovation’ and supporter of the Immersive Storytelling Studio. They are providing both financial and in-kind support to enable digital innovation and will use their digital strategy and delivery expertise to help the Studio create unique, immersive theatrical experiences. nationaltheatre.org.uk
About the Soulpepper Theatre Company
Located in its multi-venue home, the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in Toronto’s Distillery Historic District, Soulpepper is Toronto’s largest not-for-profit theatre company. Founded and guided by artists, Soulpepper has an integrated mission which includes: industry-leading youth and community outreach initiatives; artist training and mentorship programs; and a year-round diverse repertory season which is grounded in the classics and committed to the creation of new works, new forms, and innovative practices. Tickets to Soulpepper productions are available by calling the Young Centre Box Office at 416-866-8666 or by visiting soulpepper.ca.