Aaron the Moor

Date: 2015
Posted by: John Frazier
Cast: John Nyrere Frazier (Aaron)
Credits: None
Duration: 2.09

There many renditions of Aaron speech “Indeed, I was their tutor to instruct them” from Titus Andronicus (Act 5 Scene 1), most, though not all, performed by black actors. This is a stand-out example for me. Looming out utter blackness, his face gradually becoming visible yet never wholly so, the unrepentant Aaron confesses to his bloody deeds with as much anger as relish. He continues the speech with Lucius’s reply, “Art thou not sorry for these heinous deeds?”, ending with an emphatic “Ay, that I had not done a thousand more”. A portentous electronic organ makes for an effective musical background, while the performance begins with the sound of dripping water, suggesting imprisonment.

In or out of the context of Shakespeare’s play (in which Aaron is a grotesque murderer, who will be buried up to his chest and left to starve for his crimes), this comes over as a declaration of vengeance, more particularly the relish in the power that vengeance gives. The implication is that it is the vengeance of blackness against a white world. We are as much in the world of Toussaint l’Ouverture as Titus. The words are powerfully spoken, and though the performance by John Frazier might be too ripe in other circumstances, here it is fitting to its setting. A memorable two minutes.

Links: YouTube page

Dog Hamlet

Date: 2012
Posted by: Picuco09
Cast: Hamlet (Hamlet)
Credits: Created by Eduardo J. Diaz, Mark Leydorf
Duration: 2.32

It is the 23rd of April, 2016, and all the world over people will be celebrating the 400th anniversary of the passing of one of the most successful of all YouTube contributors. William Shakespeare was an Elizabethan playwright with extraordinary insight into what would appeal to a twenty-first century audience with a mobile in its hand and only a few minutes’ attention span. As of today, should you type in his name into the YouTube searchbox, you will get 1,580,000 results. That’s more than any author’s name that I can see (Dickens? a paltry 474,000. J.K. Rowling? a mere 203,000). This is a writer who remains right on the button, with a name worth searching for.

And so, to celebrate this quatercentenary, here is as good an online Shakespeare video as you could hope to find. It is the Hamlet “to be” soliloquy, as seen through the eyes of a New York fox terrier by the name of Hamlet (is he the first Hamlet ever to play Hamlet?). Shakespeare’s somewhat altered words are spoken for him, but we see the world through his eyes (the camera remains at dog height throughout). It’s a delightful jeu d’esprit, with some obvious but excusable punning (“must give us paws”, for example), smart camerawork and editing, a tasteful harpsichord soundtrack, and central performance of great feeling. Yes it’s mostly cute, but it is also a little wise in its way it takes Hamlet from resignation to contentment, and artful in how it marries affection for Shakespeare with affection for a pet.

No other author could have inspired such a work. That’s what we should be celebrating.

Links: YouTube page

Stripping Shakespeare – #1 Emilia’s Red Room of Pain, Othello

Date: 2014
Posted by: WMMoriginals
Cast: Sapna Gandhi (Emilia)
Credits: Directed by Ambika Leigh. Creator of Stripping Shakespeare: Nicol Razon
Duration: 2.44

So what’s this – fifty shades of Shakespeare? Emilia’s speech, ‘Yes, a dozen; and as many to the vantage as would’ from Othello, Act 4 Scene 3, is played out in some bondage setting, with a dominatrix speaking the words in taunting fashion to a hooded man, while another woman swings upside-down on a swing. Provocatively staged (but never greatly so), Emilia’s speech becomes a teasing taunt turned into practice, putting emphasis on the words “But I do think it is their husbands’ faults if wives do fall” – with this video’s scenario being the consequence.

This one of a series of ‘Stripping Shakespeare’ videos produced by an American filmmaking collective, We Make Movies, that brings together trained actors and erotic dancers. Series creator Nicol Razon states:

I wanted to create a series that was somewhere between Kubrick’s subconscious cinema and Reading Rainbow. Shakespeare has always been a love and stripping, always a temptation. Stripping Shakespeare will not only showcase the talents of classically trained actors, erotic dancers, and filmmakers, but also strip Shakespeare’s text down to its meaning enriching our understanding of poetry that is usually robbed of its naughty bits.

Others in the short series are Tongues, Tails & Teases: Kate & Petruchio, Taming Of The Shrew, Her Body’s Lust: Iago’s Dream, Othello (which makes use of archive film of Paul Robeson in The Emperor Jones) and An Unlessoned Girl: Portia, The Merchant of Venice. They bring Shakespeare into the world of fetish, pole dancing, striptease and burlesque, and what is most striking is how well they are done. The passages from the plays are cleverly chosen, with the words spoken by capable actors with lip-smacking relish. The videos are stylishly made, turning what might have only been a tacky joke into something witty at least and insightful at best.

It looks as though a longer series was originally planned, and one can only speculate why more have not been produced. Shakespeare can certainly supply the filmmakers with plenty of suitable material.

Links: YouTube page
Stripping Shakespeare channel
Stripping Shakespeare website
We Make Movies

From Hour to Hour

Date: 2013 (original version 2011)
Posted by: groeneg
Cast: None
Credits: Double G Productions
Duration: 0.57

‘It is ten o’clock:
Thus we may see,’ quoth he, ‘how the world wags:
‘Tis but an hour ago since it was nine,
And after one hour more ’twill be eleven;
And so, from hour to hour, we ripe and ripe,
And then, from hour to hour, we rot and rot;
And thereby hangs a tale.’

Jacques’ words on time and mortality are the inspiration for this roughly executed clay animation, which takes the idea that we rot and rot literally with a comically horrific ending. Part of the joke is the nature of stop-animation itself, which speeds up and collapses time into whatever space it eants to, so that a young man may become a corpse in seconds.

The anonymous filmmaker has some pedigree in this field, since as GroeneG he was responsible for 2007’s Hamlet’s Egg, one of the first videos to be posted on BardBox. The animation technique has not moved on greatly in those five years, but the fondness for using Shakespeare as black humour remains.

Originally posted on Vimeo as Hour to Hour in 2011, then reposted on YouTube as From Hour to Hour in 2013.

Links:
YouTube page

TO BE

Date: 2012
Posted by: The Voices Project
Cast: Emma Campbell, Melanie Araya, Dianne Kaye Aldé, Patrick W Richards, Izzy Stevens, Reece Vella, Ebony Vagulans, Lavinia White, Kathy Nguyen, Leo King Hii (all Hamlet)
Credits: Director: Damien Power, Producer: Bec Cubitt, Co-Producers: Eva DiBlasio, Eleanor Winkler, DOP: Guido Gonzalez, Editor: Nikki Stevens
Duration: 2.16

The multi-voice Hamlet ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy has become, if not quite a cliché, then if a familiar, even instinctual video response to the play. I think it was the South Bank Show in the UK, in a 1989 programme on the history of Hamlet in performance, which first edited together clips from different renditions into one soliloquy (Olivier, Gielgud, Burton etc.). What looked like a witty one-off has turned into a way to demonstrate how these are the words of everyman or woman being spoken to everyman or woman. The speech becomes not just one person’s thoughts, but anyones.

Such video intepretations find a natural home on Vimeo or YouTube, where the space available is best suited to the soliloquy. The prime example of the multi-voice soliloquy is the Hillside Student Community’s Hamlet’s Soliloquy, already praised on BardBox, where schoolchildren share the words with uncanny knowingness, and there are several examples on YouTube where someone has edited together clips from different feature film versions

Now we have TO BE, courtesy of the Fresh Ink programme of the Australian Theatre for Young People (atyp), which is looking at monologues through its Voices Project. As part of the project they have produced this video with ten young performers from Sydney who take it in turns to speak Hamlet’s words – on the beach, on a subway platform, on a basketball court, in a car, and so on – the monologue as multilogue. It has a particularly effective opening, in which each of the actors gets to say their ‘to be’, before the rest of the soliloquy is spoken by each in turn. The peformances are fresh, varied and meaningful, making us hear and see the words anew.

It is interesting to see how the online video medium encourages close engagement with the camera, the performers either looking directly at us or turning their heads towards us mid-shot. Feature film Hamlets seldom look us in the eye; stage ones never; online video ones continually. It is because they know that we are looking closely, on our laptops, smartphones or tablets. Online video is encouraging a more personalised, sharing form of Shakespeare, one in which we become as much a part of the performance as the performers – through watching, through our comments, through blogging and embedding, through sharing links, through the intimacy of address. The online video reaches out to a multiplicity of platforms; a video with multiple voices such as this is therefore emblematic of the whole genre. It is Shakespeare that can come from anywhere, and can be anywhere.

Links:
Vimeo page
Fresh Ink
The Voices Project on Facebook
Behind the scenes photos on Flickr

Google+: Tom

Date: 2012
Posted by: GoogleChannelUK
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch (voice)
Credits: Not given
Duration: 1.31

Google in the UK has produced this sweetly sentimental advertisement for the Google+ social network, which uses Jacques’ ‘Seven Ages of Man’ speech for As You Like It. We see Tom as infant (actually it’s Tom’s son William – the plotting is a bit muddled), schoolboy (William again), lover (we’re back to Tom), soldier, justice and ‘lean and slippered pantaloon’, and … and then nothing. For Google has given us just the six ages of man. Now is this because Google would rather not show us Tom “sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything”? Or is some subtle insinuation being made that in the virtual world there is no such thing as death or its approach? Is this bowdlerisation or simply variation?

Links:
YouTube page

Midsummer Night’s Dream – Act III, Scene 1

Date: 2009
Posted by: Mike Knish
Cast: Zak Engel (Bottom), Mike Knish (everyone else)
Credits: None given
Duration: 9.52

How many ways are there to film the high school assignment to make a Shakespeare video? Not nearly enough, to judge by the evidence. So many lame Hamlet raps, so many juvenile Star Wars parodies, so much poverty of the imagination (poverty of the props we must excuse, of course). Though a few of these videos do demonstrate some filmic skill (as recorded from time to time on BardBox), and through that an appreciation and understanding of Shakespeare, it is just a few.

Then we get this production, made by Mike Knish as a school assignment for Music History, it says. To say that it is good or bad is irrelevant – it’s just plain different. Two male students stand side-by-side in front of a large photograph of woodland in sunlight. One draws markings on his face, then other intones wordlessly. They then reads out lines from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the most wooden manner possible, reading from papers in their hands, making not the slightest effort to impart character or interest. The camera remains static, bar the occasional close-up of a face. They play music from a laptop when music is called for. One reads the part of Bottom, the other all the other characters, clumsily changing costume for each.

And so it goes on, and on, and on, for ten minutes. It is the antithesis of performance, a stoner’s Shakespeare, a Warholian school exercise, an end to pretension. I wouldn’t care to watch too many other videos like it, but I rather like this one. It has knowing ignorance.

And he got an A for the assignment.

Links:
Vimeo page