Shakespeare today

When I was still in Secondary school (goodness! that feels like a lifetime ago!) and studying for my ‘O’ Levels (now, that really was a lifetime ago),  we had to read Romeo and Juliet (I cheated and watched Zeffirelli’s 1968 version that I borrowed from our local video store) and I remembered thinking how romantic it was and started fantasizing about a similar story in my life. Except, of course I’m a plain-jane kind of girl (well, kinda plump kind of girl) whose working class family really had no major blood feud with anyone and I went to an all-girl’s Catholic school (despite not being Catholic…). I started reading about the Globe theatre and the costumes and the silly rules about not allowing women to act and how all the female parts were played by pre-puberscent boys (and they have issues about same-sex marriages?? really??) and one of the things that struck out to me was how interactive theatre was in the 1600s. I’m not sure about you, but most of the peformances I’ve been to, there is polite, enthusiastic applause at the END of the play, and sometimes in between acts. But in Shakespeare’s era (and Johnson’s), audiences, hooted, clapped, yelled, cussed WHILE the play was going on and at times, the dialogue of the play could be changed by the actor responding to the audience (even though I imagine the gist of it probably remained unchanged….or did it?).

But today, with our ingrained societal politeness, we’ll have none of that, thank you very much. Instead, the RSC has struck upon a rather innovative way of recreating the response that Shakespeare might have experienced when he was the resident playwright and sometime actor at the Globe by making use of the new scocial networking technologies available to us today. Hello Twitter! and Facebook! and Youtube! and Blogs! As a fellow twitter (albeit only a fair user since I facebook status myself most of the time) and blogger, I found the use of these social network platforms a rather interesting experiment, not to mention a highly addicting one. From tweeting pehaps only once a month, I was tweeting every chance I could (a tough act considering that I was in clinic most of the time).

Such Tweet Sorrow is Romeo and Juliet performed in real time ( over 5 weeks!) mainly through twitter, but with multimedia enhancements via youtube (who’s heard of a play without the requisite music??), photos via tweetphoto, and blogs. For the most part, they’ve kept most of the main characters @mercuteio, @tybalt_cap, @jess_nurse, @LaurenceFriar, @romeo_mo, @julietcap16) on twitter, some enhancement of the story via blogs (Electric kool aid cafe, Stepmom Mrs (*not*Ms)Capulet’s Balanced Adult food and nutrition, Jago, a character that I don’t think was originally in the play, unless if he’s meant to represent the chorus). And the audience (go #suchweet! go #teamchorus and my fav #savemercuteio) responded in a big way even to the extent of setting up a save mercuteio campaign, adding their comments about the plot, talking directly to the characters. The actors themselves did a great job too and the mercuteiogroupies fell hard for Mercuteio and his cheeky photos, great singing and non-stop flirting, and all this while keeping the plot going! The famed “curse on both your houses” speech was very poignantly tweeted as “@romeo_mo @Tybalt_Cap May both your families rot in hell! Fuck #teammontague from now on its only #teammercutio“.

And perhaps its my age, but both @romeo_mo and @julietcap16 seemed like a bunch of reckless lustful teenagers, and when I re-read the text, that’s what they truly are. Except on twitter, the careless of their youth is a lot more obvious even though as @jess_nurse puts it, “Their love is real.” The story moves along as Shakespeare had written it with the ill-fated couple meeting at a Capulet party, the wedding (both a humanist version and apparently a city hall version–“In one respect I’ll thy assistant be; thy vicar and ‘virtual’ marry thee!”), the knife fight where poor mecuteio and tybalt are killed, the confusion (so clearly illustrated by @laurencefriar-“Where are they I can’t see anything? WHERE?”), the quarrel between the two lovers over who killed who, the deep sleep masquarading as death (seriously larry? Propofol?), romeo obtaining pills from a mysterious apothecary (in this case, the mysterious jago_klepto who left some orange pills he had nicked from the friar’s flat) and poisoning himself, juliet who then decided to kill herself with a knife, only to be found by her poor hapless sister (jess_nurse) who got there too late because of rush hour traffic.

For the most part, this was a fantastic production because it does what all good plays, what good drama does: it draws the audience in. From the #mercuteiogroupies, to the various twitters who have left their mark through their ever so enthusiastic commentaries through twittering and blog posts (and there are so many, I hesitate to link them except to say I think you should go to #suchtweet as it seems everyone (and in the short future including me) has added their two sense worth by linking their reviews). We’ve booed, we’ve cried, we’ve suggested, we’ve counseled, we’ve counseled. It seems we simply can’t stop.

Even Mrs. Capulet, a minor brainless character, has been brought to life with her nutrition blog and scathing reviews of her culinary skills through her children’s tweets. @mercuteio had such a huge following because right from the beginning, he was unrelenting in his pursuit of the audience while the lovers were only aware of each other, as exemplified by their constant twitterings to each other with studied neglect to their audience.  The backgrounds of the twitter pages changed as the story progressed.  It takes some suspension of belief that a character would tweet so much before they die, but then again, if you think about it, this much younger generation that announces their every move to the world via the WWW probably might tweet or facebook update everything, including, even, their suicide. I do think Juliet would have done her character more justice if she had created a blog while she was ingesting that propofol and instead of tweetering her suicide, announced it as a blog entry.

Romeo’s despair and death though was wonderfully tragic and touching and he got more and more poetic as he went along (“I place my hand on my heart & feel each double beat.One for life,one for Love.Without both,It cannot function.My heart beats for you,Juliet). The great lines” What’s in a name? that which we call a rose; By any other name would smell as sweet …Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptiz’d” became “Love has made me reborn so baptize me again by any or no name, just call me yours!” in twitterland, and their first meeting was played out on twitter with all the lustful energy of youth on both sides:”can hardly type,hands are shaking!Just kissed that gorgeous girl!shes amazing,there are not enough characters on twitter to describe her!!=)”, “Hes just the mot amazing guy! its like…. the minute our eyes met… there was this immediate connection… kinda felt like magic…” while romeo’s audio eulogy for Mercutio tugged at the heartstrings deeply(My brother is sleeping). The one part that made little sense was the flirting that Mercuteio was carrying on with Jess (“@Jess_nurse did I say that you are looking HOT? Let’s set this party on fire”) and I wonder if that was meant to be twitterland’s interpetation of the Queen Mab speech who is the “fairies midwife” or perhaps “RT @romeo_mo what am I doing here when I could be with you right now?! feel like I’m being interrogated sat next to Merc! – Bro’s b4 Ho’s Ro” was the Queen Mab speech. I’m guessing the later. The final speech by the Prince? Perhaps the final last tweets between @LaurenceFriar and @jess_nurse:A gloomy peace this painting with it brings. With it, a Father I was taught to hate shows more love to me than my own ……….Thank you. x

A technical critique I have is that I wonder if the actors know that we can tell how these tweets are being submitted. In other words, twitter lets readers know that the tweets are either made via text or via the web. Some of the tweets were clearly made via the website which did not make sense since the character was in a vehicle driving or at the footy match…But then again, what is a play if it does not ask you to suspend belief once in a while?

And now, I rest too. Hopefully I’ll be out o the hospital early enough that I will have a chance for the debriefing session that @suchtweet is hosting tomorrow. But for now, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite videos courtesy of mercuteio.

side note: ah-hem Mr. Ben Ashton? total crush on you. if you ever decide to come to St. Louis, definitely look me up! LOL.

And for the complete twitter-play:try this or this.

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ChiefMonkey

I've been swinging from place to place looking for new adventures every day.

One thought on “Shakespeare today”

  1. You put this so well… I too remember being in school and wishing I could be an old-style groundling at a performance.

    Hoping the hospital stuff goes smoothly and you get home on schedule 🙂

    Like

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