Brian Cox Masterclass with Theo

Date: 2009
Posted by: hopscotchboss
Cast: Theo, Brian Cox
Credits: Filmed by Theo’s Dad
Duration: 2.40

This is the apogee of the mini-genre that is the toddlers-spouting-Shakespeare videos on YouTube. Here Brian Cox himself instructs thirty-month-old Theo in the ‘To be or not to be’ speech from Hamlet. The first thing to be said is that Theo learns his lines well and seems to be enjoying the process. Brian seems to be having a whale of a time too. Do we learn anything from this, or is it just cute? Maybe there’s an underlying belief that teaching children Shakespeare can only be good for them, the same way that playing them Mozart is supposed to improve their brain power. There’s no scientific evidence behind it, but heck what harm can it do? What I think both Brian and Theo discover is what satisfying sounds Shakespeare’s words make. As in other examples of this kind of toddler video, there is also the odd effect that Shakespeare’s words have when uttered by someone who has no inkling of their meaning. It brings their meaning home to us in a peculiarly direct way. How Brian Cox came to be involved in this family video is not made clear.

YouTube page

Shakespeare – toddler style!

Date: 2007
Posted by: psychologyrulz
Cast: Tatiana
Credits: Filmed by Lyndon
Duration: 1.45

More children unaware of what they are saying when reciting Shakespeare. Here three-year-old Tatiana, aided by her two-year-old sibling, recites the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy by reading from a computer screen. While some of these ‘cute kid’ Shakespeare videos seem to highlight in some revealing way the disparity between the innocent voice and the words being uttered, here one just marvels at how much a young brain can take in. I mean, just pronouncing ‘contumely’ correctly is an astonishing achievement.

YouTube page

Sari – Hamlet Soliloquy & The Lorax

Date: 2007
Posted by: groundlings123
Cast: Sari
Credits: Not given
Duration: 4.21

How long is YouTube going to last? I mean, will it still be around twenty years from now, when all those cute kids who have been thrust before the camera for the entertainment of the world grow to adulthood? What will they think of themselves, or their parents? How many of the videos will have been taken down by then, if YouTube hasn’t collapsed under one giant lawsuit or another?

Meanwhile we live for the moment, and in our survey of the best and most interesting of original Shakespeare videos online, we need to acknowledge the cute kid phenomenon, because it has touched (or has been touched by) the Bard as well. Here two-year-old Sari recites the ‘To be or not to be’ speech, along with with a piece from Dr Seuss. What does it mean to have such heavy words spoken by one wholly innocent of their meaning? Is it cute or disturbing? Or do we gain some extra awareness of those words by the very disparity between speaker and speech?

YouTube page

From Richard to Gloucester

Date: 2009
Posted by: Michael Rouse
Cast: Michael Rouse (Earl of Gloucester), Peter Rouse (King Edward IV), Jamie Crispin (man on promontory), Kate Tydman (Cecily Neville), Stuart Neal (man lost in woods)
Credits: A Tambrisk Pictures production. Directed by Michael Rouse, produced by Brenda Jane Newhouse, photography by Stuart Neal, sound by Kate Tydman, edited by Michael Rouse and Kate Tydman, music by Bret Vanderburg
Duration: 5.34

A visually striking and frenetically directed interpretation of Gloucester’s speech from Henry VI iii, ‘Ay, Edward will use women honourably’. The approach taken is to visualise the words as much as possible, rewriting Shakespeare’s poetry as images. This is a tempting strategy to follow, though not always a wise one. Words conjure up images quite well by themeselves, and it adds no value to show someone caught in a thorny wood when a line says ‘… like one lost in a thorny wood’. For all that, this is a deeply felt piece of expression, with much care having gone into locations, angles, lighting, the editing dynamic and the treatment of the image. The result, like the verse, gives a vivid impression of a mind both disordered and clear-sighted, a murderer’s self-justification. A strong central performance (the video cuts back and forth from Gloucester’s soliloquizing to the images in his mind) adds to the compelling effect as it rises to a crescendo. All in all, an effective peek into the mind of someone that one would rather have not peeked into at all.

Vimeo page
Tambrisk Pictures website

‘World’s-a-stage’ Shakespeare cycles

Date: 2010
Posted by: boytoynorth
Cast: Brian McCugan
Credits: Created by Brian McCugan. Music courtesy of
Duration: 2.11

With the addition of BardBox’s second cycling video (see the exceptional Cymbeline for the first) I think we have the makings of genre. Here Canadian actor Brian McCugan sticks a video camera to the front of his bicycle and sets off along the seawall at Vancouver, reciting the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from As You Like It. This is the sort of Shakespearean production that YouTube is there to encourage. It could not have been imagined before the time when cheap, portable video cameras became available to all (and both picture and sound quality here are lousy), before broadband, before video hosting sites, all of which have encouraged the sharing of the personal and the compulsion to self-expression. It’s an actorly performance – and a good enough one at that – whose reasons for existence are a seizing of the moment, and a capturing in video form the kind the rumination that cycling along a seawall might very well encourage. Now could we have a remake, with a slightly better camera?

YouTube page
Brian McCugan’s personal site