To tweet or not to tweet…

…must have been the question asked at some point by Mudlark and The Royal Shakespeare Company, the co-creators behind Such Tweet Sorrow, a modern and in real time telling of Romeo and Juliet through micro-blogging site Twitter.  Of course this was not a question to be approached lightly during the creative development of this Shakespearian Twitter play, the first professional production of its kind.  Such Tweet engaged six actors, directed by RSC Associate Director Roxana Silbert, to tweet live in-character during the five-week project.  The actors initially took part in character workshops to develop the modern day reimaging of the characters, however the content of the tweets was improvised within a plot time line.  This allowed Twitter users to follow the story and interact in real time with the characters.

The project was met with some cynicism.  Initial discussions concerned whether or not the project was even theatre.  Of course theatre is a broad genre and therefore I would argue that the project features live performers creating a self-contained drama, and therefore is a form of theatre, though madly innovative in its approach.  But does it work?  Well there was definitely something addictive at times about following the action.  I’m not sure whether it was the unknown length of silence between tweets or the awaited action of this well-known Shakespearian tale, but at times I was eager to get back to the action.

But it didn’t always work.  The modernisation of the characters was surely to bring the story in line with its presentation through modern social media, however this itself was often clunky.  The open discussion of secret plans between @romeo_mo and @julietcap16 across the web was a challenge for the imagination and with the language of the Bard stripped away, the story becomes little more than a (slightly dated) forbidden love story, no different than that told almost weekly through the Soaps.  Of course there is great power and charm in the language of Shakespeare that I somehow wish they had decided to keep; especially as it was replaced with bad grammar, misspellings and smilies.  This project was surely a challenge for the actors involved but the limit of 140 characters often left their tweets lacking colour, honesty and believability.

This was a fantastic and innovative project that was perhaps a little too lengthy, allowing a little boredom to set in at times and certainly needed more attention to the technique and control of the actors.  I think Shakespeare was a step too far into the unknown with the project becoming much ado about nothing.

My experience of Such Tweet was supported by project sponsor 3 and their Free Twitter on 3 initiative.

Copyright © theatreJunki 2010

One Response to “To tweet or not to tweet…”
  1. Interesting concept! I would love to see a similar thing done with other scripts. I can appreciate the 1410 character limit must have been restricting. Maybe this should be used as a way to run side by side a TV series for example. Adding extra incite into the show as it happens and between each episode?

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