Dome promises world of fantasy

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The Independent Online
VISITORS TO the Millennium Dome will be able to live out their theatrical fantasies and appear as stars in a virtual West End musical.

Designers of the Serious Play Zone, whose theme is "playgrounds of the future", are planning an interactive set where the public can perform opposite celebrities on a hi-tech stage.

A giant ambient screen will create the atmosphere of a live performance and technology will be used to modulate the singer's voice. Members of the public will say their lines or sing a song in tune with the script.

The moves follows the decision to drop Sir Cameron Mackintosh's idea for a live extravaganza musical as part of the millennium celebrations.

The Serious Play Zone is being sponsored for pounds 12m by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB. It will feature a hi-tech football match, in which the public will try to score goals. Visitors will also be able to play futuristic chess and cricket matches.

Even the most tone deaf will be able to create a symphony in the dome's play zone. In a "hi-tech, low-tech" exhibit they will bang "household objects" such as rolling pins and dustbin lids. Computers will turn this into a symphony.

The zone will feature traditional games, which will be made futuristic with new technology, as well as a selection of exotic foreign games.

"This is not about arcade games," said Peter Higgins, partner in the London-based Land Design Studio which is designing the play zone. "They are not pub games. It's a very exciting surrealistic landscape that will allow a much bigger cross section of people to experience the opportunities that technology brings into play. It's certainly not Segaworld. We are building a prototype for future play."

Nearby, the Local Identity Zone will highlight, among other themes, the effects of littering. In an exhibit about "personal space", designers will use computer animation to vividly illustrate what happens if the public stop dropping cigarette butts, crisp packets and rubbish in an urban street. They will contrast a grubby high street and a hygienic version of the same road transformed by "public responsibility".

The zone's creators want to show how by "direct action" individuals or groups can change the public spaces they live in.

The local identity exhibit will also focus on the "significance of personal spaces". It will look at how people stamp their identities on their environments, including their own bedrooms.

The Local Identity Zone is being designed by HP:ICM, the same company in charge of the controversial Body Zone, which will feature a giant hollow sculpture of a canoodling couple in a similar pose to Rodin's famous sculpture The Kiss.

The public will be able to walk inside the steel structure, which will contain an eight-storey exhibition about the human body. Plans to include a huge model of a baby have been scrapped.

There are 14 themed areas in the Millennium Dome. But fewer than half have so far gained sponsorship. The exhibit celebrating Britain's role at the centre of the financial world has also failed to attract full corporate backing.

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