A stunning array of Northern Ireland talent has been gathered to present 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.

In this ambitious and innovative undertaking, actors, magicians and composers will be part of the Cahoots NI team broadcasting from an extensive, purpose-built set in Belfast, where magic and illusion have no boundaries.

From Belfast to Ballycastle, from Bangor to Armagh, all have assembled to help families enjoy the theatre experience, this time with a tremendous twist.

The show will have its Northern Ireland premiere as part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival running from October 22nd – 25th and 29th – November 1.

The cast includes actors Sean Kearns (Newry), Hugh Brown (Bangor), Philippa O’Hara (Belfast), Lata Sharma (Bangor) and magician Caolan McBride (Armagh).

Also involved with the show is composer, sound designer and musical director Garth McConaghie (Ballycastle).

Artistic Director and Creator of University of Wonder and Imagination, Paul Bosco McEneaney, said he was delighted to have so much talent for the show.

“We are thrilled to be opening the doors of the University of Wonder and Imagination for enrolment, with such an array of Northern Ireland’s best contributing,” he said.

“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.

“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 show will have its Northern Ireland premiere as part of this year’s Belfast International Arts Festival running from October 22nd – 25th and 29th – November 1.

Speaking of the show Hugh Brown 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.”

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.

Sean Kearns said he was excited to be part of the ambitious undertaking.

“The wonderfully frightening thing about this project is that the format is new to all of us, so we are all discovering it together,” he said.

“Technically the show is enormous, and we are still figuring out what can be achieved. As the University Motto states ‘In Imagination we Trust and in Wonder We Must’.”

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.

Magician Caolan McBride said: “From a magician’s point of view there were things I hadn’t seen done anywhere before and I knew early on that something special was happening.”

Philippa O’Hara added: “It feels like we’re entering a new frontier of online theatre due to Covid-19 and Cahoots are diving headfirst into this new world.”

Composer Garth McConaghie said Cahoots NI are bringing the theatre directly to people in their own homes.

“The fact that we are pushing technical boundaries in exploring new ways to tell stories and present theatre.”

Radio star Lata Sharma, said that even the cast were daunted at first by the scale of the show.

“When I first heard about the format, it was a little scrambled in my head but as I read through the script and began to recite it out loud, it all began to fall into place.”

Speaking of the technology being implemented to show The University of Wonder and Imagination Paul McEneaney said: “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.

For more information go to cahootsni.com or follow Cahoots NI on social media #UniversityofWonder #CahootsNI

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