Review – Such Tweet Sorrow

Apr 16 2010 | By More
At last, it has all kicked off in Such Tweet Sorrow, with the first real piece of action after the production had been going for just four days.

* * * *

The cast of Such Tweet Sorrow: Mark Holgate (Tybalt), Geoffrey Newland (Friar), James Barrett (Romeo), Charlotte Wakefield (Juliet), Ben Ashton (Mercutio) and Lu Corfield (Jess)

By Thom Dibdin

Brilliant in concept, timely in its production and horrifyingly time-consuming to witness, the Royal Shakespeare Company’s latest offering to the digital age has been shaking the world’s desktops, tweetdecks and smart phones since first tweet last Monday morning.

It might not be on any of Edinburgh’s conventional stages, but as a piece of digital theatre – or maybe it is meta-soap – it occurs wherever there is an appliance to watch it. Which means that it is happening here, as much as it is happening anywhere.

In its first four days, Such Tweet Sorrow generated an audience that had, as of Friday 16 April 14.55 GMT, grown to at least 4,427. That was the number of people following Juliet Capulet (@julietcap16) on twitter at that time, a number that is rising by the minute.

She is merely the most popular of the six true characters – and one slighty off-slant Greek chorus style character – performing in the production via Twitter. It’s not all 140 character tweets, however, as they also have the combined forces of YouTube, twitpicks, AudioBoo and other internet-based social media platforms at their disposal.

If the opening few days were slow-burn character-building, by Friday afternoon the true and enthralling nature of the production had begun to show itself.

We knew that in some modern-day English market town there were two families riven by one common grudge. Ten years ago, local painter Montague drove his car off the road, killing his lover Sue Capulet. In a confrontation with Sue’s husband, Montague lost his eye.

Back to Friday afternoon and while the audience around the world bayed and shouted encouragement – “Fight!! Fight!! Fight!! *pounding her fist on the desk*” tweeted Eva Palazzetti from London – Romeo Montague and his best pal Mercutio had their first on-tweet confrontation with Tybalt Capulet – in the L-Fek internet cafe run by Laurence Friar.

It was cleverly constructed stuff. While Juliet was presumably happy at home with her older sister Jess (@Jess_Nurse), their wastrel brother Tybalt (@Tybalt_Cap) was making good use of having been expelled from school by popping down to the L-Fek to score some grass.

“smoking their brains out on best herb”

Meanwhile, having spent the night before smoking their brains out on best herb, Romeo Montague (@romeo_mo) and his best pal Mercutio (@mercuteio) thought they’d like a little hair of the dog.

Sitting in the corner of the cafe, local thief and Juliet’s classmate Jago Mosca (@jago_klepto) looked on, laughed and uploaded a couple of clips about cannabis to his tumblr account, excluded from the action, but knowing full well that Laurence Friar (@LaurenceFriar) was the local dope dealer.

What was good was the attention to detail. Laurence tweeted a link to a YouTube clip of the Spaghetti Western Orchestra performing The Good The Bad and The Ugly, just as the verbal sparring picked up.

Tybalt – “The Prince of Pussy”

“The Prince of Pussy’s has just walked in – the ‘courageous’ captain of cocks!” tweeted the testosterone-fuelled lads. Not quite the dancing meter of “Do you bite your thumb at me sir?”, but still keeping the audience nicely on edge as they mocked Tybalt to each other with a picture of Norman Wisdom in his flat cap.

The slow, real-time unfolding of events is tricky, but it has a complex build that is impossible to achieve in the compressed time of real theatre. The space between tweets, for the audience, is filled either with work as you keep an eye via your tweetdeck feed or by actively taking part and tweeting comments to your own followers around the world.

Of course, this is early days in a production which is set to last five weeks in total. But it certainly augurs well for the future of the project – less so for those who enjoy the spectacle but have other things to do.

The use of social media platforms is excellent when it comes to the characters. The L-Fek – Laurence Friar’s Electric Kool-aid Cafe – has its own website, Juliet introduced herself with a YouTube video of her bedroom, and Romeo was first introduced on an AudioBoo clip of him snoring before being seen via his on-line Xbox playing persona.

Slightly less good, at least so far and rather surprisingly given the involvement of games speclists Mudlark on the production, is Such Tweet Sorrow’s own website. It would be unfair to judge it for going down early in the process when something like a thousand people a second tried to access it, but it still hasn’t got the historical timeline running right for those who are joining late and want to play catch-up.

Whatever the early technological glitches, and whatever the genre it eventually ends up being, this is an intriguing piece of drama that is worth witnessing over the next few weeks.

Come back for reviews of the unfolding drama.


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Nicholas Riipley says:

    At last, a considered and timely reveiw which does not seek to describe what it is not. I would make an additional observation about the tension the collective characters using different spaces engender. As you hunt around and find some shaky slap~happy style mobile phone video it all goes to build up a frightening feeling of impending violence.

  2. Karen Johnson says:

    Excellent review! Trying to keep up with everything just from my phone, and trying to get my friends on board too! Thanks!