“How many ages hence
Shall this our lofty scene be acted o’er,
In states unborn, and accents yet unknown!” Cassius (Act 3, Sc 1)
Well to answer your question Cassius, just last week this lofty scene was ‘acted o’er’ in a wide variety of accents and a multitude of tweets. Our production finally hit the stage on Wednesday night after a tense few days of tech & dress. Tense, because just prior to us starting our tech weekend we were told that the wi-fi in the venue would not be available to us (due to maintenance work) and we would have to rely on dongles and mobile phone networks to make our twitter feed work. Also tense because that’s just the way a tech weekend always is!
But predictably by Wednesday we had solved our problems and were ready to go. The actors rose to the occasion, as did the crew, most excitingly so too did the audience. Over the space of four performances my ideas about audience engagement and the use of twitter were thoroughly tested. On the whole the twitter feed got the thumbs up.
On Wednesday some Greek friends of one of our cast said it had been a life-saver in terms of making sense of the play, when the Shakespearean language certainly wasn’t ‘all greek’ to them. On Saturday another friend said that the ‘official’ tweets had really helped him understand the play – although he also added that the ‘unofficial’ ones had added nothing to the experience. I’m not sure that was generally the case, although many people commented that the twitter feed helped them understand the play the thing that I found most exciting was that once the audience got into tweeting on the hashtag #btiom their tweets quickly moved from comments on the production ‘interesting casting’ ‘nice hat’ to becoming characters in the action – taking sides with the characters on stage, commenting on the action as if they were part of it – in the same way that the character tweeters were.
I think that for many of the audience (who were inevitably there out of duty rather than desire, or who had been dragged along by more willing partners), the opportunity to take part in this way meant that they focussed more on the play itself, enjoyed it more and perhaps will come away with more interest in theatre. Simply having to follow the action in order to tweet intelligently meant a greater engagement.
On Saturday (when our show starts at 5pm) we had a number of children in the audience – many of them under 10 – this did not however prevent them tweeting – even if it was using their parent’s identity to do so. The tweets were slightly more random – some more about simply being there – but anything that helps a 9 year old sit patiently through Julius Caesar has to be a good thing! I’m not sure how the 3 year old coped but she was pretty well behaved!
To me, a really exciting development was that people who weren’t at the play also tweeted or followed the tweets at home. A number of people who had already seen the show, then tweeted on subsequent evenings and others were simply curious when their friends all started using the same hashtag. We have storified the tweets so that anyone can now see them – many of the twitpics were either taken by the audience during the show, or by our plebian character @romansnapper – who’s backstory was as a photographer. I think the production may also have opened some people’s eyes to twitter – I know of quite a few who set up a twitter account just so that they could tweet during the show.
Friday’s tweets (the most boisterous and full-on)
Official dress rehearsal photos kindly taken by Gareth Leahy http://www.flickr.com/photos/g_leahy/sets/72157629375144245/show/
“Unofficial” photos taken by @romansnapper during the show
You can also see our video trailer and video of the crowd workshop at: