Jekyll and Hyde thrills new generation
12 September 2014
Visitors to the Cheltenham Literature Festival in October will be among the first to experience a cult horror story in a completely new way thanks to a creative project that builds on the latest bio-sensing technology.
Dr Anthony Mandal, Reader in Print and Digital Cultures at the School of English, Communication and Philosophy, is an expert on Robert Louis Stevenson's gothic novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Since 2013 he has been the academic lead on the ground-breaking Jekyll 2.0 project, which he developed in collaboration with Bristol games company Slingshot. The company are now releasing the project commercially in a horror-maze game called Hyde.
The project uses players' bodies as game controllers, transforming the novel into a maze of rooms, each representing a level of the game inspired by key points in the original story. The technology of Hyde is driven by participants' bio-data (for example heart-rate, depth of breathing and posture) to shape the experience.
At the Festival, the team will discuss the artistic and technical background of the project, the game's new film trailer will be premiered and one audience member will be wired up to measure their live reaction to the spine-chilling story. Using a bio-harness, the participant will be able to control a lamp with their breath.
Dr Mandal said: "Jekyll 2.0 took a classic book and explored how to embody it as an interactive experience, transforming narrative into gameplay and offering readers the chance to shape their own unique stories through their bodies. The starting point of the project was my on-going work on an entirely new edition of the Collected Works of Robert Louis Stevenson – the first of its kind in over a hundred years. The challenge for me was how to use the research we're collecting for this scholarly edition to create innovative, exciting and publicly accessible projects like the one Slingshot are now developing with Hyde.
"When the novel was first published in 1886, it shocked its Victorian readers, leading them to ask questions about the relationship between the human and the technological, and the role of science in society. Provoking controversy, it also suggested that we each harbour a dark "double" who bears our deepest and most secret desires. What happens, the novel asks, when that double is set free to roam the world unhindered?" Dr Mandal added.
Simon Evans, Director of Slingshot, said: "Using the latest technology, a few key innovations and a wealth of historic resources, we are able to transform the novel into a terrifying but fun game. Players will experience the cult novel in a new way, transcending characters, themes and narrative to reveal, and release, their inner Hyde."
Jekyll 2.0: Embodying the Gothic Text was commissioned by REACT (Research and Enterprise in Arts and Creative Technology) – one of four UK Knowledge Exchange Hubs funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for the Creative Economy - and is a collaboration between the University of the West of England, Watershed and the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter.
The talk is one of six events hosted by the AHRC at The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival which runs from 3 to 12 October 2014.
The Jekyll & Hyde event takes place on 4 October at 2pm. For more information please visit: www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/literature/whats-on/2014/jekyll-and-hyde/.