2016 was the year of ‘Shakespeare Lives’, a year-long celebration of the works of Shakespeare, marking 400 years since his death. The British Council were keen to develop a new creative platform which would stand as a landmark event in the programme’s calendar.

After the success of the music-led project Mix The City, we were asked to adapt the concept for a new medium: theatre. We were keen to stick to the original principle of allowing users to create something they felt ownership over. Could users direct theatre in the same way as they could create music in Mix the City? This question led us to Mix The Play.

Working with a creative partner, The Old Vic, and technical partner, Roll Studio, we built an experience in which any user can direct A Midsummer Night's Dream. From the bank of footage we filmed, users can cast an actor, direct their performance style, pick a world to set their performance in and even tweak costume and music. They can also read reviews of their version, and download a personalised poster.  

Following the success of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the Shakespeare Lives team commissioned a second iteration - Romeo and Juliet, directed by top Indian theatremaker Roysten Abel. This takes Roysten's own directorial process and enables the user to choose between a traditional, cultural and modern interpretation of the text. Romeo and Juliet was filmed in India with a local crew and cast including Bollywood stars Adil Hussein and Kalki Koechlin, and launched in November 2016.

Watch an example of a completed scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream (directed by Helen Mirren no less) here, or visit mixtheplay.britishcouncil.org to create your own