The Winter’s Tale Shakespeare for Kids

Date: 2009
Posted by: bubbales
Cast: Peirce (Leontes), Nazim (Antigonus), Thomas (Camillo), Lauren (Hermione/Perdita), Braden (Polixenes), Barbara (Paulina), Trevor (Old Shepherd), Buttercup (bear), Michelle, Ben
Credits: Directed by Michelle, Barbara, Trevor; set design by Nazim, Ahmet, Braden, Peirce; music selection Barbara, Michelle; camera Barbara, Ben, Nazim, Trevor; film editing Barbara; pupeteers Michelle, Lauren, Nazim, Trevor, Barbara; costumes Michelle, Trevor. A Later Shakespeare Production
Duration: 11.00

On the eve of Shakespeare’s birthday, BardBox’s latest discovery is this this delightful, extraordinary, weird and stylistically rich version of The Winter’s Tale. Delightful, because it is an American schoolchildren’s production of the play (in modern language and condensed to 11 minutes) which is done with such happy enthusiasm that it is a cast-iron argument all by itself for introducing Shakespeare to children at any age.

Extraordinary, because there is nothing else out there quite like it. It is unusual among online Shakespeare videos in attempting to express all of the plot of one of the plays in the short space available. It also stands out for its invention, with child and adult actors, video and still images probably employing some sort of software designed for schools projects, interiors and exteriors, with several surprise inventions, including the handy use of a map to show the distance between Sicilia and Bohemia.

Then weird, because in some respects it is a really quite peculiar experience. Seeing young children performing Shakespeare always makes you wonder if they know what it is they are doing, and if the adults involved had really thought it through, with the odd plot, odd names, odd settings, odd everything (except the language, which is not Shakespeare’s). Just what were children of six or seven supposed to make of what they were being asked to do? Except that everyone seems to be enjoying themselves so much, the exercise seems more than justified, certainly to be more than just being ‘cute’ for cuteness’ dubious sake.

And then stylistically rich, because there are so many of the particular tropes that BardBox has highlighted over the years bundled up in one video. Children speaking Shakespeare, school projects, Lego figures (Yoda as the oracle), Star Wars references, puppets, animals (a small dog plays the bear) – they are all there. Coupled with wooden acting (though Leontes expresses his rage rather well), shaky camerawork (some of it by the children) and erratic sound, this is the quintessential YouTube Shakespeare. And it all ends in a happy dance, just as such a play should do.

Happy birthday, William.

YouTube page

Shakespeare Shortz

Date: 2009
Posted by: citizenstheatre
Cast: Staff of the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Credits: not given
Duration: 2.56

Shakespeare Shortz was a competition launched by the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, in 2009, inviting anyone to contribute a video of them reciting their favourite lines from Shakespeare in under two minutes. The winners won tickets to the theatre’s production of Othello. The video above illustrates what they were looking for, with various staff members of the theatre delivering their lines with affection, like a deeply-held passion at last brought forth. The competition is over now, though submissions are still invited just for fun, and in a way it’s similar to what BardBox is aiming to do – documenting, storing and redistributing a new form of Shakespearean production whose strength lies in its community.

The sixteen responses to the video can be found on YouTube here or on the Citizens Theatre’s own site, here. The two winners were Max Does Shakespeare by yobkulcha (yet another example of children reciting words beyond their understanding):

and Calum MacAskill Porter by SkinheadNinja, a particularly clever piece of elementary animation, which merits far more YouTube views than it has received so far:

All in all, this was a good idea that should have had far wider distribution. If only the RSC or the National had come up with it – then Shakespeare and online video might have started to gain the attention it undoubtedly deserves.

YouTube page
Responses to the competition on YouTube
Citizens Theatre Shakespeare Shortz site

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

The Ages of Man

Date: 2007
Posted by: jrsherrard
Credits: Filmed by Jean Sherrard
Cast: 5th and 6th graders
Duration: 1.46

More from the Hillside Student Community (see the American school’s spirited group rendition of “To be or not to be“, posted earlier), as individually and collectively the fifth and sixth graders recite the ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech from As You Like It, Act 2 Scene 7. A vigorous spirit and attention to meaning is evident in each shot of the children in an appropriate woodland setting.

YouTube page

Hamlet’s Soliloquy

Date: 2006
Posted by: jrsherrard
Credits: Created by Jean Sherrard
Cast: 6th graders
Duration: 1.47

‘To be or not to be’ performed by ten American sixth-graders from Hillside Student Community, Bellevue WA (the Hillside Intermediate Players) on a playground. The opening lines are spoken in unison, then each line or part-line is spoken by a separate child in a separate shot, each one cleverly (but not too cleverly) composed. It’s surprisingly effective: engaging, dynamic, clearly spoken and with the right spirit of fun – and meaning. A small work of art, produced by the school’s Artist in Residence.

YouTube page
See also the school’s similar rendition of ‘The Seven Ages of Man’ speech