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Direct a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream with a new digital platform

Theatre news

THE British Council and The Old Vic theatre have joined forces to create a new digital platform that will allow digitally-savvy theatre lovers and school children the chance to play director of one Shakespeare’s most loved plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and to join the rest of the world in celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death in 2016.

Joe Murphy, 2016 Baylis Director at The Old Vic, has directed a cast of young actors in Act Three Scene Two from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which queen of the fairies Titania mistakenly falls in love with the hapless craftsman Bottom, whose head has been transformed into that of a donkey.

Thirty six different versions of the scene have been shot, using a variety of set designs – including a modern warehouse, Sutton House, a National Trust Tudor property, and a historical stage set from The Old Vic – actors (three different actresses play Titania) to lighting and styles of music (contemporary, traditional or 1960s).

In total there are 108 possible permutations of the same scene.

Users of the platform will be able to mix these pre-recorded film samples to create their own individual ‘directors cut’ of the scene which can then be downloaded, shared on social media or used for classroom learning.

Director Joe Murphy said: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play full of magic, mischief and imagination, so it’s the perfect piece to launch Mix the Play. As a director, the decisions I make about a production shape the entire world of the play – casting, costume, music – and I am excited that through this project we can share the creative process with audiences around the world.

“I hope everyone has a go, more than once, and uses the website to explore how a director takes the words of Shakespeare and breathes life into the characters and this 400 year old play.”

Recent research published by the British Council revealed that Shakespeare was slightly more popular outside the UK than in the country where he was born. The research also showed that people who had been exposed to Shakespeare through film were significantly more likely to enjoy his works.

“It’s vital that we find new ways to engage young people so that we can ensure that Shakespeare remains as relevant in the future as he has been for the past four hundred years,” commented Rosemary Hilhorst, Director Shakespeare Lives, British Council. “In collaboration with The Old Vic and working with an incredibly talented team led by director Joe Murphy, Mix the Play will give everyone an exciting opportunity to try out their creative skills and get to know Shakespeare’s works.”

Mix the Play is part of Shakespeare Lives, the British Council’s global programme of events and activities celebrating William Shakespeare’s work on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of his death.

Led by the British Council and the GREAT Britain Campaign, the programme brings together an unparalleled breadth of creative organisations including the BBC, the BFI (British Film Institute), the National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Shakespeare 400 consortium, the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the Royal Opera House and Shakespeare’s Globe as well as a major partnership with UK-based charity Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) to give real help to children in some of the world’s poorest communities and to raise funds and awareness of their work in education globally.

Murphy concluded: “Mix the Play opens the doors of The Old Vic to everyone, anywhere in the world, inviting them to sit in the director’s chair and create their own version of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic scenes: it’s a completely unique way of interacting with Shakespeare.”

Mix The Play can be accessed at mixtheplay.britishcouncil.org/.