Shakespeare online is such tweet sorrow
Updated on 12 April 2010
An unusual social networking project will see Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet played out live on Twitter over the next five weeks. Benjamin Cohen reports.
Such Tweet Sorrow is the world's first Twitter based professional production of a Shakespeare play. Produced by the Royal Shakespeare company and a multi-media company called Mudlark, it went live on Twitter (under cover) last night.
It's an incredibly novel concept and one which takes a little while to fully appreciate. Over the course of the next five weeks, in real time, the tale of Romeo and Juliet will be played out over the social networking platform Twitter.
Obviously the production isn't being set in the 16th century, set in the current day. Script writers Tim Wright and Bethan Marlow have updated the tale, transplanting the characters and their background to the current day.
The scriptwriters have played out a story grid with key events in the play being scheduled over the next month. But the actors playing the characters on Twitter will improvise the dialogue throughout the day, including interacting with their Twitter followers.
Every morning the actors receive a three-page mission document which informs them of the key events that need to take place during the day.
The project was jointly funded by the Royal Shakespeare Company, Channel 4's 4IP fund and Screen West Midlands.
On the Such Tweet Sorrow website, it's possible to gain an overview of all of the different Twitter accounts, including the ability to view the entire play in a time-line.
Set as it is in the real world, the play will react to news events taking place during the next month. This obviously means the general election, one of the most tweeted subjects on Twitter, but also the London marathon, where one of the characters will be taking part.
The only flaw I could see with the concept was secrecy. It's pretty central to the essence and plot of Romeo and Juliet, like much of Shakespeare's work. The audience know more than the characters. We know for example that Juliet is not really dead when Romeo finds her towards the end of the play, causing him to kill himself. She of course finally commits suicide when she awakes from her drug induced slumber.
But on Twitter, each of the characters will be able to see everything that the others are doing, saying and even thinking. One of the key features of the new 2.0 social web, is that everyone knows everything about their friends and followers.
James Barrett who plays Romeo told me, "We will have to use a bit of artistic license, we'll have to assume in some circumstances that the characters are blissfully unaware of what the others are doing. Often Twitter is something you see right in the moment, what happens when you're offline is quite easy to miss, unlike on Facebook."
Such Tweet Sorrow continues on Twitter and online until mid-May.
What do you think about the concept? Speak to Benjamin Cohen on Twitter.