Lovely Little Losers

Date: 2015
Source: Lovely Little Losers
Cast: Reuben Hudson (Stanley Balthazar Jones), Jake McGregor (Benedick Hobbes), Bonnie Simmonds (Freddie Kingston), Caleb Wells (Peter Donaldson), Jessica Stansfield (Meg Winter), Harriett Maire (Beatrice Duke), Pearl Kennedy (Hero Duke), George Maunsell (John Donaldson), Phodiso Dintwe, Mouce Young, Ella McLeod, Daniel McBride, Kalisha Wasasala, Bronwyn Ensor, Robbie Nicol
Credits: Creators: The Candle Wasters; Writers: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Sally Bollinger; Directors: Elsie and Sally Bollinger; Producer: Minnie Grace; Production Designer: Claris Jacobs; Trailer Editor; Editors for the Series: Claris Jacobs, Elsie Bollinger, Minnie Grace, Sally Bollinger; Sound Director: Sarah Jessica Golding; Cinematographers: Claris Jacobs, Harriett Maire, Sally Bollinger; Production Runner: Calum Gittins; Clapper Loader: Elsie Bollinger, Jen Smith, Minnie Grace, Shannon-Mae Read; Lighting: Shannon-Mae Read, Sally Bollinger; Motion Graphics/VFX: Carlo Grunwald
Duration: 84 videos (including trailer)

The most imaginative, ambitious and successful works of Shakespeare on video at the moment are being produced by the Candle Wasters, a four-women creative team from New Zealand. Their first production was the multi-episode Not Much To Do, an updating to Much Ado About Nothing set among high school students in New Zealand. Lovely Little Losers, ingeniously structured as a sequel to the first series with some of the same characters (so you can find out what happened next to Beatrice and Benedick), adapts Love’s Labour’s Lost to the same twenty-first century New Zealand setting, with everyone now at university.

The set-up is that four students (three male, one female) at a Wellington university share a flat and have complicated personal lives, each being losers in one way or another. To impose some order on flat life, they decide to establish some rules, which include a curfew and a ban on all relationships, the central conceit of Love’s Labour’s Lost being that four companions deny themselves the company of women. The unfolding series then shows how impossible it is to live by such rules. The story is told through a series of vlogs and musical interludes, alongside accompanying social media feeds, in which the various characters reveal the thoughts and feelings natural to a generation accustomed to sharing everything and living in the presence of cameras.

The series takes a while to get going, riffing on the characters, and when the complication is added of the flat rules (in episode 14) it feels as forced and unlikely as does Shakespeare’s original. Certainly some among those of the series’ many followers were puzzled, as YouTube comments indicate, but once the premise has been established the series works through the assorted dilemmas and their resolution with wit and style. Every video trick in the book is used, usually self-referentially so, with the series building on lessons learned making Not Much To Do. One does think that the omnipresent camera pushes at the barriers of what even a twenty-first century student might be prepared to tolerate – to a degree that maybe one of the flat rules that might have been imposed could have been a ban on being filmed.

The contrivance of the situation is more than made up for by the freshness of the performances. The students are no more annoying than students have always been from Shakespeare’s time onward, and are played with a vivacity and conviction – by skillful cast – that clearly strikes a chord with followers of the series. The Shakespeareaness lies not only in the plot borrowing and in the use of his songs and sonnets, but in the forensic exploration of love and desire (straight and gay), and in the substitution of visual conceits for literary conceits. As with Not Much To Do, it shows how one way forward for Shakespeare in an online age is to free the plays from the two hours’ traffic of the stage and to break then down into their constituent parts, letting each of these take on a life of their own through sharing.

Lovely Little Losers ran throughout 2015, with eighty main episodes (each 3-5 minutes long), three extras and a trailer. You wouldn’t want to watch the whole thing in one go – it can get a bit samey (all those scenes in the one flat) and cute – but of course you’re not meant to. It’s there to be followed in fragments. The sequel to this sequel, Bright Summer Night (adapting A Midsummer Night’s Dream) begins on July 8th…

The Candle Wasters
Lovely Little Losers YouTube playlist
Facebook account
Kickstarter page
Cast and crew links

King John

Date: 2015
Posted by: Hassan Jamal
Cast: B.T. Taylor (King John), Frank Ugochukwu (Messinger [sic]), Dr Lou (Death)
Credits: Homewood & Frankstown TV. Dr D (Camera Upload), Director/Camera (Hassan [Jamal])
Duration: 3.23

Here’s another example from the excellent L.A. Subway Shakespeare Project, the creation of post and playwright Hassan Jamal. The project is a series of black-and-white videos featuring African-American performers shot at metro stops around the Los Angeles. The virtue in the series in how exemplifies the best of ‘street Shakespeare’ – taking the poet’s words and giving them a raw immediacy through placing them in a modern street setting, with passers-by and traffic noises an essential part of the ambience. There’s a compulsion about the renditions, by which the street encourages the verse.

There scene here was filmed close by Leimert Park Crenshaw Metro Station. It’s a little-known passage from King John, specifically the king’s exchange with a messenger (bringing him bad news from France), from Act 4 Scene 2, beginning “They burn in indignation. I repent / There is no sure foundation set on blood” (though there is some free interpretation of the text). They meet on a street corner, while wide-eyed man gyrates in a way that says that either he is made or he knows that those around him are the truly mad (the credits reveal him to be Death). The words and finely spoken (especially by B.T. Taylor) and one feels the power of the exchange even if the precise reasons for it are unfamiliar. The camerawork is shaky, but that only adds to the sense of poetry torn from tradition on to a truer stage.

Other videos in the series are The Merchant of Venice, Othello, another Othello, The Merry Wives of Windsor, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Two Gentlemen of Verona and The Passionate Pilgrim.

Links: YouTube page

Ophelia of Shakespeare’s Hamlet Demo Speed Paint by Leilani Joy

Date: 2014
Posted by: Leilani Joy
Cast: None
Credits: Presented by Leilani Joy
Duration: 12.26

One of YouTube’s major functions – though probably not a function originally considered by its creators – is instructional. There as millions of videos on the site offering illustrated advice on anything from cookery tips to bathroom repairs. The most successful videos are those that combine visual clarity with engaging personality, as many are presented by the expert in question.

Shakespeare sometimes features in such videos, and here’s a good example. Leilani Joy in an American artist offering instruction in how to produce figurative illustrations, of the large-eyed kind. The distinctive touch she uses is speeded-up action (‘speed paint’) of the process. She has a large following, as can be gathered not only from the viewing figures, number of subscribers and the number of comments on each of her videos, but in the confident way in which she addresses her audience.

Her subject for this video is Ophelia (one of her ‘Muses’ series). She introduces her audience to earlier artworks on Ophelia (some classical, so less so), with the assumption that many of those in the audience will know little if anything about the play. She then goes into painting the drowned Ophelia (with tips on water effects), without any further comment on why she has chosen this scene or why it would have any particular appeal. The trope of Ophelia drowned is so embedded in the consciousness that it needs no further explanation. You don’t have to know Hamlet to know Ophelia. The video is striking testimony to Shakespearean iconography and and the handing on of myth.

Oh, and the finished artwork is available for sale.

Links: YouTube page
Leilani Joy’s website