Monday 20 June 2016

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. 

36 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. 

"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,” said Director Joe Murphy.  “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.”

The creative decision making process of Mix the Play will be available to millions of users globally through a partnership with file-transfer service WeTransfer, on its homepage at 

Notes to Editor

For more information visit

For more information about Shakespeare Lives visit and follow #ShakespeareLives

For more information about the British Council contact

Amelia Wells, Press Officer; +44 (0)20 3285 3711

For production press enquiries about the Old Vic contact

Jo Allan | E | M 07889 905 850 | T 020 7520 9392

Kitty Greenleaf | E | M 07545 131 539 | T 020 7520 9392


For general Old Vic press enquiries:

Amy Dowd | E | M 07737 007 016 


About the Old Vic’s Baylis Directorship and Baylis Assistant Directorship

The Baylis Director is an annual post that provides a unique opportunity for one director each year. Joe Murphy is the second Baylis Director who has been selected for this twelve-month programme, during which time he will direct a full-scale production at The Old Vic, receive a fund with which to commission a new piece of work, and shadow the Artistic Director, together with using The Old Vic’s space and resources to research and develop projects.


Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy is currently Associate Director at Soho Theatre and a freelance director with experience working in London, on the West End, Broadway and internationally. He was Artistic Director of nabokov theatre company from 2010 to 2015, during which time the company presented the work of 88 playwrights and 496 artists cross three continents. He will take up his role as The Old Vic’s Season 2 Baylis Director in September 2016 and will be directing a new version of Woyzeck by Jack Thorne, starring John Boyega, in May 2017.

Theatre credits as a director include What I Learned from Johnny Bevan(Soho Theatre and UK tour), Incognito (Bush Theatre), Blink and Bunny(Soho Theatre, UK tour and off-Broadway), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Chichester Festival Theatre and UK tour), The Taming of the Shrew and Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare’s Globe and international tour). His Associate Director credits include Wolf Hall (RSC, West End and Broadway), This House (National Theatre), Henry V(Shakespeare’s Globe and UK tour) and Ghost Stories (West End and Moscow).


About WeTransfer

WeTransfer is the simple file-transfer service to discover and share new digital content. More than 85 million users go to WeTransfer every month to share and discover the latest in art, music and design. WeTransfer’s mission is to not only provide simple, easy-to-use file-transfers, but also experiences combining sight and sound that enrich its users’ lives and celebrate creativity.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide. We work in more than 100 countries and our 8,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the arts and delivering education and society programmes. We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publicly-funded grant provides 16 per cent of our turnover which last year was £973 million. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, such as English classes and taking UK examinations, and also through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

For more information, please visit: You can also keep in touch with the British Council through and