WillPlay is a learning resource with a difference, which puts the student inside the play. It introduces Shakespeare’s plots, characters and language via a familiar, accessible medium, while at the same time bringing teenage learners closer to the immersive, interactive Shakespeare enjoyed by early modern audiences. Through WillPlay, we recapture aspects of the lively, unpredictable, and, at the time, thoroughly modern experience that was 16th-century playgoing, for 21st-century audiences, using 21st-century technology. The stories within WillPlay were developed by Rachael Hodge and Felicity Brown, from the Oxford Faculty of English and draw on their research expertise in early modern drama, playgoing and reading practices.
The first prototype focuses on Romeo and Juliet and takes the form of a social-media chat-app, with accompanying images, emojis and scene-setting “stories”. The experience invites the student into the play, allowing them to chat to the characters and be with them as the drama unfolds.
The WillPlay Romeo & Juliet prototype can be experienced via this link: https://will-play-web.vercel.app/.
The project was developed with seed funding from Oxford University’s Business Engagement Fund, and was awarded both a shortlist and a finalists prize in NESTA’s first ever Alternarratives competition, recognising innovation in storytelling. As part of its Alternarratives shortlisting, WillPlay was also featured on the BBC Tasters website.
Our ambition now is to expand WillPlay, covering more plays, developing our curriculum focus, and reaching new and wider audiences in collaboration with a creative industries partner. At a time when students demand more from online learning, WillPlay stands out from the crowd as a resource that truly leverages technological advances and enables new forms of creative engagement.
We’ve created a short introductory video which will give you a sense of the look, feel and functionality of the WillPlay experience: https://youtu.be/A4w0L5_EYGs