Deep Within The Heart of Virtual Hearts

Students play with the human heart at Melbourne University’s VR Learning Studio in the Department of Physiology & Anatomy
(Image courtesy VRLS)


Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.

Act 3, scene 2, 71–74

As a theatrical object, literary metaphor and essential body part, the heart has long been used to convey complex human emotion and ideas. So what of a virtual heart? How can it be used to give theatre goers an inside perspective of the ways in which the heart can be manipulated both literally and figuratively? This is the challenge that Christian Leavesley and Jolyon James, of project partner theatre company Arena, have set themselves.

Working with the Virtual Reality Learning Studio (VRLS) in the School of Biomedical Sciences here at The University of Melbourne, they are testing the theatrical possibilities of a virtual heart. Originally conceived of as a teaching and learning tool for students of anatomy and physiology, this VR object allows users to immerse themselves in the space of the human heart, opening it up, testing ventricles and arteries – and now theatre.


Christian and Joylon already have a number of ideas for the project, and below is an audio excerpt of the first impressions of young participants exploring the possibilities of VR and theatre taken from our day in Bendigo with Arena Theatre Company.


Christian Leavesley (l) and Jolyon James (r) explore the theatricality of the human heart at the VRLS
(Photo: Lynne Kent)

Creative Convergence: Enhancing Impact in Regional Theatre for Young People