New research from digital technology company Adobe has revealed that 77% of those 11-18 year olds who struggle to understand William Shakespeare’s plays say it is because of the challenging language, with 29% saying that modern day interpretations of the plays would help with their understanding of Shakespeare. Following news in August of a decline in the number of young people studying English at A-Level, Adobe surveyed 2,000 UK school- and college-age people to understand this further and found that almost one fifth (19%) would welcome digital technology being used to help them visualise Shakespeare better in the classroom.

With an estimated two million British school children studying Shakespeare’s work each year,  Adobe and the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) have worked with five UK artists and photographers to reimagine iconic Shakespeare scenes for the 21st Century, providing teachers and students with new creative interpretations to bring Shakespeare’s work to life using Adobe technology, such as Photoshop, Lightroom and Premiere Pro.

Shakespeare and Creative Skills

Nearly a fifth (19%) of the young people surveyed recognised Shakespeare as one of the country’s best creative minds of all time, beating contemporary artists across a range of disciplines including Stormzy (12%), David Hockney (2%) and Stella McCartney (2%).

Despite recognising his prowess as a creative, 42% don’t understand how studying Shakespeare will help them get a job in the future. With the World Economic Forum (WEF) naming creativity as the third most important skill employers need to thrive in 2020 as automation infiltrates the workplace, Simon Morris, Education Programme Lead, Adobe EMEA, said:

“The technologies changing the world of work create an opportunity to integrate digital learning into lessons, no matter the subject, to help young people develop the essential creativity and critical thinking skills they will need in their careers. Helping young people develop these skills should be a top priority and our partnership with the RSC is designed to support educators in delivering on that. Our Reimagine Shakespeare campaign is designed to showcase how Shakespeare can be made much more relatable to young people by taking a more creative approach to how they interact with the texts. This is just one of the many ways we at Adobe are working with schools to integrate technology into lessons to help students better understand complex topics – from Science, Maths and IT, to History, English, Geography and more.”

A Digital Art Series for the Instagram Generation

Adobe and the RSC have worked with fantasy photographer Rosie Hardy, comic book artist Amrit Birdi, photographer and conceptual artist Darryll Jones, digital artist Jack Teagle, and illustrator Octavia Bromell (Adobe’s Creative Resident - young talents employed by Adobe to spend a year focusing on a personal creative project while sharing their experience with the creative community) to put their own twists on iconic scenes from Romeo & Juliet, Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream using Adobe’s Creative Cloud tools.

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To ensure the scenes stayed true to their original meanings, the artists worked closely with RSC Director of Education Jacqui O’Hanlon and RSC theatre director Alex Thorpe.

Jacqui O’Hanlon, RSC Director of Education, added “The RSC and Adobe believe that creativity and the arts should be an integral part of every child’s education. We know from our extensive research that having access to arts and cultural learning improves empathy, critical and creative thinking in young people as well as developing their social and communication skills.  All these qualities and attributes are essential for helping prepare young people to take their place in the world.  We’re thrilled to be working together to inspire young creators to explore Shakespeare’s work in new ways, using digital tools to explore the thing that RSC actors and directors work on every day: how to bring Shakespeare’s best-loved texts to life for contemporary audiences of all ages.”  

Adobe & The RSC – A Partnership to Support Educators Bring Creativity to the Fore

As part of the partnership with the RSC, Adobe will also co-present the RSC’s popular First Encounters with Shakespeare tour this Autumn, featuring 90-minute adaptations of Shakespeare for 7-13-year olds, and provide a digital learning experience for Adobe Spark and Creative Cloud.  Adobe Spark is available to all schools free-of-charge and can be used by students to create infographics, graphics and videos for school projects. 

The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,000 11-18 year olds between 06.09.2019 - 10.09.2019. Censuswide abides by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 

RSC estimate based on the number of students taking GCSE English annually, those preparing for exams, and the fact that students aged 11-14 are introduced to at least of Shakespeare’s plays as part of the KS3 National Curriculum.

About the Creators and Their Creations

Jack Teagle is a freelance illustrator based in South West England. He has worked in a large variety of fields, including editorial, character design, storyboarding, poster/ product/ textile design, and worked as a cartoonist for Front magazine from 2010-2014. In his creation, digital artist Jack Teagle depicts the three witches in Macbeth sourcing the recipe for their potion online using Adobe Draw and Photoshop.

Octavia Bromell, better known as Tink, is an illustrator based in rural England. She uses her experience with anxiety and depression to illustrate the joy in everyday life. Focused on empowering herself and others, Tink’s work is bright, fun, and tackles the realities of what it means to be a human in 2019. She is currently Adobe’s UK Creative Resident. Octavia Bromell has recreated the lovers’ first meeting on a dating app in a hipster café using Adobe Fresco, Rush and Premiere Pro.

Rosie Hardy is a self-portrait artist and fantasy photographer based in Manchester. Her work often focuses on surreal and ethereal concepts with touches of magical scenes. Fantasy photographer Rosie Hardy has reimagined one of the key characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Titania, in her signature style, using Adobe Lightroom.

Amrit Birdi is a London-based comic artist and illustrator who is known for his work on Joe Sugg's best-selling Username: Evie graphic novel series. He and his team produce comic & graphic novel interior and cover art, video game key art, book jacket art, concept art and tv & film art. Comic book artist Amrit reimagines A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a superhero fantasy in an urban dystopia using Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator.

Darryll Jones is a conceptual artist and former graphic designer, best known for his work travelling the UK extensively taking pictures with Eric the stormtrooper, which has been met with huge success on Instagram. Reimagining the iconic balcony scene between Romeo and Juliet, Darryll features his Stormtrooper character Eric texting Juliet before whisking her off on his motorbikeusing Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop.

Adobe’s partnership with the RSC builds on the theatre company’s ongoing work in supporting teachers and students to unlock Shakespeare’s plays with creative approaches. The partnership, launched in January 2019, supports teachers and schools with free digital learning guides and teaching resources that help integrate creative digital learning methods into classroom study for all subjects.  In turn, for students who are native content creators, it gives the opportunity to explore their creativity around a core subject.

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