WillPlay was created by Rachael Hodge and Felicity Brown as part of Alternarratives, a Nesta led programme to help writers explore innovation in short-form storytelling. Nesta are collaborating with BBC Taster to help test the experiences - please view, rate and give us your feedback above.
What is it?
Created on the Charisma.ai platform, WillPlay adapts, alters and modernises Shakespeare’s celebrated tale of star-crossed lovers for 21st-century teenage readers through a new, accessible story-telling medium. The reader becomes a part of the drama, and dramatic dialogue becomes social media messages.
The story is retold through three interactive group chats: “Love”, in which Romeo and Juliet meet; “Hate”, in which Mercutio, Romeo and Tybalt engage in a deadly duel; and “Death”, in which the story comes to its tragic conclusion. In each chat, the reader takes on a different role. Each chat is preceded by an Instagram-style “story”, using visual cues, comments, handles and hashtags to set the scene, introduce the key characters, and situate the reader in the plot.
How did you make it?
Adopting the three-act structure, we decided to break the plot of Romeo & Juliet down into three sections, each told in a different group chat; passing through “Love”, “Hate” and “Death” the story progresses chronologically, but each chat also develops its own particular theme.
We also decided to change the role of the reader at each stage of the story, shifting their perspective to open up Romeo & Juliet to them in different ways. We commissioned artist and graphic designer Stuart Harrison to create a series of Instagram-style bitmoji cartoons, complete with comments, handles and hashtags, which fill in the background to the story.
Particularly in a time when theatre isn’t available, we hope WillPlay can help to creatively and interactively engage young people in Shakespeare and new forms of storytelling, all from the comfort of their own phones!
More about Alternarratives
Nesta ran an open call for bold, creative ideas that explore new ways to tell a story and push the boundary of how we consume literature and engage 13-16 year olds with reading. This was a chance for writers to consider the future of storytelling and make use of new technologies or formats.
Nesta provided nine creators with bursaries and bespoke support to make their ideas a reality - now we need your help to pick a winner. BBC Taster and Nesta are asking the public to test, rate and provide feedback on the live projects. Anyone can view them and have your say on who wins, but we’re specifically encouraging 13-16 year olds to tell us how they engaged with the works. We will view the public feedback with an expert panel to help select the final winner.