About the project

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Geraldine Collinge and Sarah Ellis, who co-directed and produced Midsummer Night's Dreaming, explain how the project came together.

At the RSC we are always reimagining Shakespeare, thinking about what the plays say for our times, telling and retelling his magical stories.

We began this project talking to Tom Uglow at Google's Creative Labs about how we would write a play now for the internet. We started by talking about a scene and 18 months later Midsummer Night's Dreaming took place.

Social media
We wanted to use how social media reports news stories and apply it to a Shakespeare play.

We also decided to look at A Midsummer Night's Dream, as its alternative reality in the forest seemed a particularly rich space for the internet.

Exploring the creative challenge
The RSC focused on the commissioning and development of the creative content, while Google in Australia looked at how we could share the work online and invite people to participate.

We spent many months exploring how we would approach this creative challenge, asking: 

  • Whether to use Shakespeare's language 
  • What elements would be live 
  • How audiences would participate

Working with our Artistic Director Gregory Doran to understand the real time in the play, we plotted a live performance that could follow these timings over three days.

Keeping Shakespeare's play at the heart of the project, a team of writers, artists and other creatives worked tirelessly to create new content that all related to a daily grid of the play created by Tim Wright.

We spoke late night and early morning between Stratford-upon-Avon and Sydney, creating new content maps that would eventually become run sheets for the live weekend.

Launching the Dream
We launched the project with an animation by the Brothers McLeod and began to build the online community.

Our Google+ account started attracting new followers and people round the world created their own content.

Puck, the only fairy who exists between the human and fairy worlds, started playfully sharing content online and teasing audiences about what might be to come.

In mid-June, the actors arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon and started rehearsing. Tom and James came over from Sydney and we started to shape the final piece.

Midsummer weekend
At 8pm on Friday 21 June the actors performed the first two scenes and we started posting creative content online.

We worked in shifts across the weekend to share content online, responding to lines in real time as they were performed, so lines such as 'I'm as ugly as a bear' resonated through the live and online.

Saturday night's performance was magical, seeing us enter fairy time in the forest at 2:45am ending as the birds started tweeting and dawn broke across the Avon almost as Puck warned of 'Aurora's harbinger'.

On Sunday we welcomed people to Stratford-upon-Avon for a day of wedding-themed events, and the company performed the final scenes under a super moon next to Holy Trinity Church which chimed on 'the iron tongue of midnight'.

It was an extraordinary weekend and a very special project. Hopefully you captured some of the magic of a beautiful play written more than 400 years ago and re-imagined by the RSC and Google in 2013.

Midsummer Night's Dreaming final scene - actors outdoors

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