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The Egg at the Theatre Royal Bath are using at the heart of an enhanced performance experience for students and teachers. Brushing aside the traditional A4 teacher’s resource pack, they’ve produced a mighty, trilingual, interactive digital learning portal.
Read on to find out more about their creative process.

The Egg took on the creation of a mammoth project to engage students and teachers across the country – an interactive portal to be played in the classroom, before and after seeing a live show.

250+ button options; English, Welsh and BSL language versions; archive footage; original content; multiple start points… This project would have taxed the brain of even the most experienced interactive video maker.

But let the theatrical team realise their dream creatively – and make it work seamlessly and accessibly.

The Josephine was a live show for venues and school shows, together with the interactive portal. See more about the show and trailer on The Egg website.

Setting the scene

The Egg make exceptional theatre for children and young people. Opening in Bath in 2005, the purpose-built and accessible theatre for children motivates and inspires theatre makers to think more about children as they create national and international award-winning performances for young people and their families. 

In 2019, The Egg team were getting ready to produce an exciting new project based on the life and legacy of Josephine Baker – singer, actor, campaigner, spy!

Most importantly, this project would include both a live play along with accompanying, engaging, digital materials. 

Their aim: to engage their audience in new and innovative ways. The team would create an interactive digital learning ‘portal’. In contrast to the usual A4 PDF teacher’s resource document, this interactive portal would fully engage today’s students pre and post-show.

After successfully bidding for funding from Arts Council England and Arts Council Wales, the team were ready to get going. However, that was when the global pandemic put a dramatic halt on their timeframe.

A look inside the Josephine Baker Interactive digital learning portal

An element of drama: a global lockdown

“Such an extraordinary opportunity – all of a sudden, The Egg was redefining and repurposing itself in this new world with technology and reimagining what touring plays look like.” Kate Cross, reflecting on how a year of lockdowns kickstarted a revolutionary change for The Egg. 

The Egg now had an entire year to mastermind their creative ideas for engaging students and teachers pre and post-performance. 

Emile Clarke and Kate Cross represented the Egg as an Industry Partner in the Bristol & Bath Creative R+D Expanded Performance pathway. As a result, the team were able to dig deeper into exactly how they were going to use digital technology to ‘expand’ their audiences’ experience.

The extra planning time meant that they could dream bigger and bigger about this exciting interactive digital learning portal!

The team quickly levelled up from a one-page website linking out to several videos to a gamified project. They were spurred on by the other projects being developed by creatives in the Bristol & Bath Creative R+D community. They began to look into ways that they could make a portal that was as engaging as it was educational. One that would keep the students – and teachers – coming back for more. 

From the Josephine Baker Interactive Digital Learning Portal Portal - The Egg

Bringing onto the stage – the technology behind the interactive digital learning portal came under the spotlight in a Bristol & Bath Creative R+D network, where the interactive conversations for Diageo’s drink-driving campaign were being discussed. 

After seeing these remarkably engaging interactive videos and after seeing Pins & Needles Productions’ amazing 72-hour Arts Council Funded project: Select a Quest, which showcased Stornaway’s choose-your-own-pathway style of video, Kate Cross and the team had a lightbulb moment:

“We made this sort of earth-shattering decision – we were going to work with Stornaway. That was our first major decision.” Kate Cross MBE, Director of The Egg at Theatre Royal Bath.

Via contacts with The House of Imagination, The Egg brought in headteacher Ed Harker, a highly experienced educator and specialist in enquiry-led learning,  to ensure that the content was factually accurate and academically appropriate. 

In fact, Ed became the architect of the project. And despite describing himself as very untechnical, he was able to pick up quickly and was soon mapping out a gigantic game plan. 

“Stornaway is like being given a huge toy box of blocks that join in all sorts of interesting ways! It’s addictive!” – Ed Harker, Headteacher and Educational Consultant for the CLP

Building upon the idea with another grant from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, the team set sail. They continued to ramp their ambitions for the project, ably project managed by director Nik Partridge and Producer Dan Lewis Jones.

In a play about a real human being, it was crucial that the truth and heart of the story were able to take centre stage. Technology was merely available as a tool to showcase and add further ways to engage with the story. 

Putting you in the director’s chair: is pathing the way for educators to make their own interactive content for children

At the 2020 Children’s Media Conference, Co-Founder Kate Dimbleby joined producers and experts, including gaming industry legend Ian Livingstone CBE (co-creator of the Fighting Fantasy gamebook series) to look at New Trends for Kids in Interactive Content

The group explored how children’s tv, theatre and game producers are embracing new, interactive ways of storytelling – to meet the demand from children for interactive learning and creativity.

There is an ever-growing list of interactive productions and spin-offs making their way onto platforms like Netflix. In other words, producers are aiming to re-engage children and young adults who are continually turning to non-traditional content platforms like YouTube and TikTok.

On the whole, young audiences are drawn in by the opportunity for more choice and more control

“Children are incredibly sophisticated in the way that they view. They want to learn but they don’t want to know that they’re learning. What’s amazing is the visceral reaction they had to having some control over what might happen. And it was not necessarily when they got to make the choices – it was leading up to it. 

“They absolutely consumed every little bit of information that we put in there. So that they were then armed with the knowledge that they needed to make the choice. Interactivity is the perfect way to engage them”Matt Brandon, Series Producer, Plimsoll Productions, reflecting on how children engage and learn with interactive factual content during the CMC panel. 

With all this in mind, it’s never been more important for content creators to embrace the wants and needs of their audiences.

So more and more educators are starting to understand the need for interactive, non-linear content as a way of keeping their students engaged. 

Screenshot from The Egg Josephine Baker Interactive Digital Learning Portal

From Initial Map Creation to Final Edit – keeps you on track

The joy of is that anyone can use it! It doesn’t require a video-editing background or an understanding of coding.

Above all, it’s user-friendly and user-ready. 

This meant that the non-technical creative team at the Egg were able to dream big and experiment. Having Stornaway available from the start let them take their original plans, test ideas and spread them wide.

Furthermore, multiple versions were able to be created for enhanced accessibility. This includes BSL co-signed in every video and a version with Welsh language subtitles. The team have been able to use the map in Stornaway and make amends to all versions as they come in. 

Ed and Nik created the portal’s story map in map very early on by and it became their key guide. They could film, take feedback and make adjustments to all of the versions in one go. 

After shooting had finished, Nik took a new role as Head of Directing at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School. So Project Management was taken on by Dan Lewis Jones – without a hitch. Dan worked with the creative team of filmmakers, illustrators, musicians and translators to edit, test and deliver the portal in

With a project this big, it’s almost impossible to imagine how a team could create this outside of a tool like without going bananas! (See top interactive director Paul Raschid’s thoughts here on exactly this point)

The Josephine Baker Interactive Digital Learning Portal map

Take a bow: the end result 

By planning the project in right from the start, the team were able to take an initial concept and truly run wild with it! All the while knowing that they could test and control the different journeys and pathways that their audience could take. What’s more, they knew that they were making something that would work within their budget and schedule – and could continue to test throughout the entire process. 

Again, with 250+ button options; English, Welsh and BSL language versions, archive footage, original content, multiple start points… this project was huge! And pulled together by people who have never made a film, let alone an interactive video before

Have they have created a blueprint for a new way of digital learning and engagement with theatre? Their interactive digital learning portal will start being played alongside live performances in schools in early 2022, and we’re looking forward to hearing all about its roaring success!

Want to create an interactive, immersive experience that will stay with your audience long after it’s over? Find out why people are using Stornaway to make unforgettable experiences

Can help you dream bigger? Let’s talk! Get in touch with us today.

Credits – The Portal Team

Ed Harker: Writer
Kate Cross: Writer And Producer
Nik Partridge: Creative Director And Producer
Becky Barry: Creative Associate (Bsl Interpreter)
Emile Clarke: Performer And Development Associate
Raffie Julien: Performer
Rachel Jones And Sherrie Eugene-Hart: Bsl Interpreters
Jack Offord: Film Maker And Editor
Ru Howe & Kate Dimbleby (Stornaway): Technology Partners
Tim Thorne: Illustrator & Animator
Adam Farrell: Documentary Content Editor
Dan Lewis Jones: Producer
Lee Rayner: Editor
Lindsay Baker: Portal Set Designer
Manon Cooper: Welsh Translation
Reagan Spinks – Welsh Captions Editor
Dr Eleanna Skoulikari: Research And Evaluation
Teacher Focus Group
Laura Knight & James Moore: Education Consultants
Hannah Jackson: Website Developer
Sophie Jacobs-Wyburn: Website Associate
Joe Spurgeon: Marketing Consultant