Date: 2012
Posted by: TheGeekyBlonde
Cast: Rhiannon McGavin (narrator, Sockspeare, First Witch, Second Witch, Third Witch, Duncan, Captain, Ross, Macbeth, Banquo, Malcolm, Lady Macbeth, Messenger, Fleance, the Porter, Macduff, Donalbain, First Murderer, Second Murderer, Third Murderer, Lennox, Hecate, Gentlewoman, The Doctor, Siward, Seyton, Young Siward)
Credits: Not given
Duration: 14.03

Among the vast number of Shakespearean videos that now exist, so many of them doing the same thing and seldom very well, it is difficult to stand out – and still more difficult to establish a distinctive style. One filmmaker who has achieved this is Los Angeles-based Rhiannon McGavin, aka The Geeky Blonde. McGavin produces videos on subjects as diverse as poetry and skincare, and her playlist Condensed Shakespeare presents summaries of the plays in an inventive style all of her own.

McGavin’s videos give us the essential plot lines, with occasional snippets of Shakespeare’s own words. She is the sole performer, cutting between herself as one character and the next (entailing many bargain-basement costume changes, mostly hats), at the same time cutting between the matter in hand and her wry 21st-century perspective on the plays’ surface absurdities. The videos simultaneously mock and honour their subject. As each character is introduced there is a comic character description written alongside their name at the foot of the screen. These are videos with their own graphical as well as visual style.

The example here, Macbeth, is typical of the filmmaker’s invention. The story is presented as a Hallowe’en treat, with McGavin narrating the story (dressed as the ghost of herself) at the encouragement of her sidekick sock puppet Sockspeare. She then plays twenty-five characters from the play, rapidly cutting from one to the next, all shot in her house and garden in a style that looks charmingly home-made yet clearly involved meticulous preparation and not a little videomaking skill – a model exercise in how to produce Shakespeare out of next to nothing.

McGavin has made similar videos for The Merchant of Venice, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night, Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors and Titus Andronicus, between 2011-2013. She does not repeat herself; while keeping to her distinctive style, she plays different variations on the model each time. It is a remarkable piece of sustained invention, auteurist indeed. She performs the Shakespeare that is in her head. It is as though she were reading through the play, with all of the other matters that would be going on in a young 21st Century persona’s mind, a mixture of popular culture references (for her YouTube audience to hook on to), puzzlement, delight, and social critique. Shakespeare’s plays are an archive of attitudes and assumptions a young woman from Los Angeles in 2012 is unlikely to share. The videos artfully square frustration with admiration, rationalising Shakespeare for a new age and a new audience.

The complete Condensed Shakespeare playlist

YouTube page for Macbeth
Condensed Shakespeare playlist
The Geeky Blonde website

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


Date: 2006
Posted by: viewmistress
Credits: Conceived, designed and directed by Lyn Kagen. A Puppet Anarchy Production. Copyright Lynne Cohen
Cast: Tim Lagasse (Moth)
Duration: 2.24

A moth is seen fluttering by a candle in the night. We cut to a close-up of a sock puppet of the moth, which then utters most of the ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy from Hamlet, though this rendition ends with the words ‘The rest is silence’. The moth flies into the flame. The end.

A rather poignant effort, artfully done with effective changes in camera angle.

YouTube page