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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 April, 2003, 07:47 GMT 08:47 UK
Virtual life for ancient theatres
Model of the Odeon of Pericles
The Odeon of Pericles was the first indoor theatre
Ancient Greek theatres have been brought back to life digitally by British researchers.

The team at the University of Warwick used state-of-the-art 3D computer technology to create a virtual reality model of the Odeon of Pericles, originally built mid-fifth century BC in Athens.

The model revealed that most of the audience would have had a terrible view, with the stage obscured by rows of pillars.

The researchers are recreating 30 European theatres in order to learn more about what it felt like to watch a performance thousands of years ago.

Flawed design

The Odeon of Pericles was the first indoor theatre and served as a prototype for modern auditoriums.

Pillars in the theatre
The large number of pillars would have blocked the view for many
But the 3D model created by researchers at the School of Theatre Studies and e-lab at Warwick University has provided new insights into its design.

The researchers found that 40% of the audience would have had their view blocked by the nine rows of nine columns.

Instead of providing the best experience for spectators, the building was designed to emphasised the grandeur and spectacle of the auditorium itself.

"The Odeon of Pericles has been computer generated from a jumble of ruins," said Drew Baker, Multimedia Designer at e-lab at the University of Warwick.

"The creations enable people to look at intricate details and produce 3D images to help experience time, space and lighting in a way far more engaging than a lecture or set of slides."

Understanding drama

Ruins of the Odeon of Pericles
The Odeon is little more than a pile of rubble next to the Acropolis
The team plan to recreate 30 theatre sites in Europe, ranging from the Theatre of Dionysus in Athens to the Globe Theatre in London.

They hope to use the virtual reality models to gain a better understanding of ancient plays and the places where they were first staged.

"By learning about the setting of a play, you can understand aspects of the drama much better," said Professor Richard Beacham from the School of Theatre Studies at the University of Warwick.

"You can really feel what it was like to watch a performance thousands of years ago."

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