Bangor born actor and performer, Hugh Brown, is set to star in Cahoots NI’s immersive digital theatre experience with the aim of bringing the magic and joy of theatre to young audiences at home.
The University of Wonder and Imagination is an hour-long interactive digital theatre production that allows audiences to effectively direct the performance, based on their interaction with the performers from the comfort of their own home.
In this ambitious and innovative undertaking, Hugh will be part of the Cahoots NI team broadcasting from an extensive, purpose-built set in Belfast, where magic and illusion have no boundaries.
Hugh said that he was excited to be taking part, and can’t wait until audiences get to experience it.
The whole vision behind the show is exciting and as usual with Cahoots there are high production values and a real commitment to good storytelling, character, magic, illusion, music and in this case online technology,” he said.
“As with all Cahoots shows all the ingredients are there to make world class theatre for young audiences, it’s just this time we are not on the traditional stage we are used to.”
The show will have it’s Northern Ireland premiere as part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival running from October 22nd – 25th and 29th – November 1.
The 49-year-old is no stranger to the ambitious productions of the theatre company.
“For many years now I’ve been involved with the development of many Cahoots shows, either as an actor or also as a writer or librettist,” Hugh explained.
“In this case the Artistic Director Paul Bosco McEneaney approached me to write some scenes and to develop a part for myself with him making it the best of both worlds.”
Limited to pre-booked audience numbers per performance, guests will assemble with their fellow University students and, led by the mysterious Professor Bamberg, will embark on a journey where nothing is quite what it seems.
Audiences will interact with lively lecturers, experience themed rooms filled with illusion and encounter problems and puzzles in an attempt to unlock magical powers and graduate with flying colours.
Hugh said: “A huge amount of effort is going into the development of this show on all levels. From writing and development, vision and production, technology and design there is a crack team of individuals working together to produce what I believe will be hugely entertaining and a theatrical revelation in these unusual and testing times.”
Hugh specialises in making theatre for young audiences, and his credits include a one-man show under the guise of Jitterbug Jackson, and has for more than 15 years been involved in the creation and performance of many shows by Cahoots NI.
His credits include writing, producing, directing and performing in a feature film in Cambodia, Inside The Belly Of A Dragon, and has been almost constantly involved with extensive productions.
“Before lockdown we toured in China for two months with the Cahoots NI show, Shh We Have a Plan that was an amazing experience” said Hugh.
“Since lockdown I have been doing a lot of writing and I created a video series on YouTube called Jitterbug TV which was designed to provide some entertainment and interactive fun for families looking for a little distraction and alternative to the pressures of home schooling.”
Speaking about the new production, Paul Bosco Mc Eneaney, Creator/Director of The University of Wonder and Imagination, and Artistic Director of Cahoots NI, said: “We are thrilled to be opening the doors of the University of Wonder and Imagination for enrolment.
“Now, more than ever, we want to capture the sheer joy and wonder that theatre and live performance brings young audiences, something we so desperately miss being able to provide at this time. We have worked hard to create an experience that would act as a first step to bridge the gap between young people and live theatre that can be enjoyed at home.
“Developing this production has allowed us to explore a completely new channel through which to bring magic and illusion to children and their families via digital technology. The choices our audiences make live, during the event, will shape their unique theatre experience – and that’s hugely exciting for us.
“The technology we are using for the production is intricate, but it will be seamlessly blended with physical sets and magical illusions. Our audiences haven’t seen anything like this from Cahoots NI before, and we believe it will be a fun-filled, thrilling experience for children, for their families and for our cast and crew to be a part of.”
The University of Wonder and Imagination is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Development Oﬃcer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Despite the enormous challenges presented to the Arts as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cahoots NI continues to offer audiences world-class children’s theatre with their latest show, The University of Wonder and Imagination, this Autumn.
“This latest show promises to be a wonder to behold! The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is hugely proud to support this terrific production which will be enjoyed by many online, helping to bring great art to everyone.”
Cahoots NI is at the forefront of Northern Irish theatre and is the leading professional theatre company producing work for children. Since beginning operations in 2001, Cahoots NI has produced original, critically acclaimed work for children including Under the Hawthorn Tree, Secrets of Space, Shh! We have a Plan and has toured its work internationally including in China and the USA.
For more information go to cahootsni.com or follow Cahoots NI on social media #UniversityofWonder #CahootsNI