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

Drunk Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

Date: 2012
Posted by: inisnua
Cast: Adam Zpeka (Romeo), Angela Smith (Juliet), Kevin Meehan (Benvolio/himself), Jered McLenigan (Mercutio), Mike Doherty (Tybalt/Jake Blouch), Brian McCann (Friar Lawrence), Darin Dunston (The Prince), Bill Van Horne (The Nurse)
Credits: Filmed and edited by Katie Reing and Jared Michael Delaney. Conceived and directed by Jared Michael Delaney. Production company: Inis Nua Theatre Company
Duration: 7.07

It is undoubtedly true that Shakespeare, down the centuries, has not always been performed sober. It is only recently, however that the idea of ‘drunk Shakespeare’ has been encouraged to develop as a deliberate policy rather than as an accidental embarrassment. And so it is that a mini-genre of drunk Shakespeare videos has started to appear on YouTube. They come in two forms – either individuals slurring into their phones, or theatre companies who try to make an art out of it.

Among the pioneers of the form are American theatre company Inis Nua who started filming a Drunk Shakespeare series of short films in 2012, for a ‘Craicdown’ theatre show, videos that then made it on to YouTube. The video here is good example: a clearly inebriated narrator summarises the story of Romeo and Juliet, while actors play out the scenes and mouth his words. There is more calculation here than the sheer abandonment to drink might suggests, with the narrator getting his words right without need for too many cuts, and the matching of performances to narration being precisely done. As with all drunks, what starts off funny doesn’t take too long to become tedious, but this rendition of the play amuses for much of the time, and even illuminates a little. (The language is a little strong in places, please note)

Other have followed in Inis Nua’s wake. There is even a Drunk Shakespeare Society, which describes itself as a “company of PROFESSIONAL drinkers with a serious Shakespeare problem”. They perform in New York bars after a few stiff drinks, and encourage the audience to do the same, which no doubt helps the entertainment hugely.

What other author could be so honoured? James Joyce no doubt, but few besides. Drunken Austen or Dickens just wouldn’t work at all – there isn’t the same sense of affinity or affection. Drunken Shakespeare is a questing for poetry, a struggle with words through an alcoholic haze to pinpoint truth and beauty. Shakespeare himself gives us drunkenness in Twelfth Night and Henry IV(i) that finds an extra poetry through inebriation, an elation and a sadness. It’s just that the actors involved are that much better able to convey this for being sober.

(Actually, now that I think of it, maybe drunk Austen could work…)

Links: YouTube page
Inis Nua Theatre Company
The Drunk Shakespeare Society

Hamlet – The Fall Remix

Date: 2008
Posted by: SteveR
Cast: Johnston Forbes-Robertson (Hamlet)
Credits: Edited by SteveR. Music: The Fall, ‘There’s a Ghost in My House’
Duration: 2.34

Shakespeare films cut to pop music are legion on YouTube, so one looks for something with a little more imagination than the usual matching of heartfelt scenes to maudlin ballads. This example is not all that adroitly constructed, but its bizarre juxtaposition of classical actor in silent Shakespeare with the Fall catches the attention.

The actor is Sir Johnston Forbes-Robertson, one of the greats of the English stage of his time, who at the end of his career chose to have his Drury Lane Company’s production of Hamlet immortalised by the cinematograph. Directed in 1913 by Hay Plumb for the Hepworth Manufacturing Company, and filmed at Walton-on-Thames studios and on location at Lulworth Cove (seen here), the feature length film – an hour-and-a-half long – sought to capture in amber a famous theatrical performance. It did that to a degree, with Forbes-Robertson showing sufficient signs of greatness in his sensitive reading of the part, for all that he was sixty at the time of filming. But film is never a simple reflection of reality. Hepworth’s Hamlet captured a moment of change, in which the plausibility of the theatre was challenged by the credibility of the screen. Much of this filmed Hamlet was absurd – illogical as narrative, creaking as performance – exposed by the camera that was supposedly mere servant to the greater art of theatre. Yet Forbes-Robertson transcends this – he gives a film performance, alert to the particular needs of the camera (if one makes allowance for some histrionics and the limited camera technique). We see what he is thinking, and believe it to be true, which is the key to cinema. It is a performance that has enough about it that is timeless, which can therefore bear screening today, and trial by mashup: though the few scenes here do not show the theatrical knight to his best advantage.

The music is post-punk band The Fall’s 1987 version of Holland, Dozier and Holland’s “There’s a Ghost in My House”, originally recorded by R. Dean Taylor in 1967. It’s a characteristic rendition of a catchy original, with Mark E. Smith’s flat, deadpan delivery offset by the punchy musical accompaniment. It is used here as jokey counterpoint to the creaky ghost scenes from the 1913 Hamlet. But what a marvellous cultural crossroads is revealed. An actor born in 1853, who achieved greatness in the late-Victorian theatre, was filmed in 1913 and preserved thereafter, married to music by the composers of so many 60s pop hits, specifically a song from 1967, reimagined in 1987, then mashed-up together in a video in 2008. The breadth of reference in a two-minute video is huge, and all in the service of a play from 1600. Art is eternal, so long as we are able to replay it.

Vimeo page
The full 1913 Hamlet can be seen on BFI Player (without music of any kind)

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

King John Rap

Date: 2009
Posted by: Tventura1000
Cast: Not given
Credits: Music: Wild Cherry, ‘Play That Funky Music’
Duration: 2.57

OK, so maybe this isn’t the greatest Shakespeare rap video – and there are a great many of them out there – but how many people have thought to rap to King John? Featuring three American students playing John, Frenchman and the Pope (a bold introduction of someone merely referred to in the play), with Wild Cherry’s ‘Play That Funky Music’ the chosen track, they goof around, rap (dubbed), have a swordfight and dance. And you get a pithy summary of the play, which shows they know whereof they rap. There’s nothing to suggest that this is a student project (and who would be teaching King John?), so one has to assume that this was done out of sheer love of one of Shakespeare’s minor plays. Full marks for novelty and enthusiasm.

YouTube page

Behind the Stage

Date: 2013
Posted by: Donald Jordan
Cast: None
Credits: Animated by Donald Jordan
Duration: 1.27

A short but inspired work of imagination. Using a mixture of photographs and medieval woodcuts, the filmmaker has imagined a staging of The Tempest, with stormy waves, sinking ships and a whale, all framed by a theatre and shot in black-and-white. It’s a moment’s inspiration made real, where the static comes to life, and the illusory nature of the stage is made apparent through illusion. Brief, but you remember it afterwards.

YouTube page

Henry V 360

Date: 2015
Posted by: Royal Shakespeare Company
Cast: Alex Hassell (Henry V)
Credits: Original stage production directed by Gregory Doran
Duration: 2.20

Wherever there is technical innovation in the arts, Shakespeare soon follows. Soon enough, if some manufacturers have their way, we will all be wearing headsets to immerse ourselves wholly in virtual words, leaving flat screens and the distance between observer and observed behind forever. Well, may be not, but 360-degree videos are certainly a growth area, with YouTube now offering a section devoted solely to the form. You don’t have to have a headset to view them, but you do need to use the navigator on the screen or your mouse paid if you want to view the action to the front, back, top, sides or whatever.

And so you can explore all the angles available in this sample 360 video, courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the RSC and the Google Cultural Institute. Alex Hassell gives the ‘Once more unto the breech’ speech from Henry V on the empty stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon (staged by the RSC in 2015). He strides about vigorously to encourage us to follow him about the screen. We have to stay alert with the navigation, or we are in danger of losing him. Some curious feature of the 360 recording has made the actor look more like an video game version himself than an actual human being. Perhaps this is intentional.

It’s worth watching the video without touching the navigation tools at all. A pumped-up man in battle clothes strides towards, then beyond us. All we then see is an empty stage with some smoke billowing, while the man who strode past us shouts and breathes heavily out of sight, occasionally popping back into view as he gets more and more worked up, before disappearing again. Having said his piece he strides back into frame and exits the stage. It is an intriguing exercise in the absurd.

It is probably the first 360 Shakespeare video, and it certainly won’t be the last, though whether one will want to inhabit a full-length play in this way seems open to question. When they talk of horses, we will want to see them printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth, but that does not mean we will necessarily want to ride with them.

YouTube page
Royal Shakespeare Company at the Google Cultural Institute

Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim

Date: 2015
Posted by: Hassan Jamal
Cast: Guy Killum
Credits: Homewood & Frankstown TV. Director/camera: Hassan; camera upload: Dr. D
Duration: 2.44

Hassan Jamal is a Los Angeles-based poet and playwright, who is the mind behind the L.A. Subway Shakespeare Project. This is a series of black-and-white videos featuring African-American performers and shot at metro stops around the city. The ‘Street Shakespeare’ genre of performances given in the raw on (usually) American streets is one of the most effective forms on online Shakespeare, and this series is no exception.

In this example, actor and double bass player Guy Killum takes a break from playing outside the World Stage Performance Gallery at Leimert Park. He leans knowingly toward the camera and gives us vivid renditions of Sonnets 138 (“When my love swears that she is made of truth”) and 144 (“Two loves I have, of comfort and despair”), in the versions as collected in the 1599 anthology The Passionate Pilgrim, before finishing off with some more bass lines.

Although the background noise is a distraction (albeit an integral part of street Shakespeare, effectively a necessary hazard), this is a first-rate video, with just the right degree of knowing address to the camera, sharing thoughts with the passer-by in the form of pointed poetry. A cooler Shakespeare performance you would hard-pressed to find.

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, King John and The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Check them all out – they are smartly filmed and expertly performed. Some will be appearing on BardBox in due course.

YouTube page

macbeth ➳ he shall never vanquish’d be

Date: 2015
Posted by: lana cho
Cast: Matt Budoff (Macbeth), Carla Carvallo (Witch 2), Lano Cho (Hecate + Apparition 2), Guy Gideoni (Lennox + Banquo’s Ghost), Siddhant Jain (Apparition 3), Emily Kravnak (Apparition 1), Serena Lantz (Witch 1), Chloe Lee (Witch 3)
Credits: Production company: The Very Large Acting Co. Editor: Lana Cho; make-up artists: Aditi Bhatt, Danielle Mullins; cinematography: Siddhant Jain; coloring: kindon18; composer: Michael Suby (Vampire Diaries score)
Duration: 6.33

Here is Macbeth from the Twilight generation. A group of young Americans re-enact Macbeth meeting the witches and seeing the apparitions (from Act 4 Scene 1) in a ferny wood, with the help of dark make-up, drained colouring effects (highlighting the red of Macbeth’s kilt), distorted voices, a widescreen image and a heavy overlaying of the music from The Vampire Diaries. Though the acting tends towards the wooden, good use of made of the setting and the opportunity for different camera angles. Chiefly it brings out the modern Gothic in Shakespeare and shows how the plays survive because they can be re-imagined to the temper of the times.

YouTube page

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation

Shakespeare’s The Tempest Animation from matthewkilford on Vimeo.

Date: 2013
Posted by: matthewkilford
Cast: Year 6 pupils from Bloxham Primary School
Credits: Made by Bloxham Primary School; Animation Station: Matt Kilford, Emily Horler. Special thanks to Mrs Verinder, Mrs Way, Mrs Coles, Mrs Ralls, Mr Ingall
Duration: 10.28

This is an absolutely charming animated version of The Tempest made by Year 6 pupils ( ages 10-11) of Bloxham Primary School, Oxfordshire, with help from local arts organisation Animation Station. It tells the essential story, with snatches of the most familiar lines, using children’s drawings animated in a rudimentary but entirely effective manner. What gives the film its power is the use of the children’s voices to tell the story and voice the characters. They tell the story with enthusiasm and conviction. While with some schoolchildren’s online Shakespeare you sense the eagerness of the teacher but wonder about the pupils’ comprehension of what they are being asked to do, here it is clear that they were fully engaged in both play and project. It is a film to persuade anyone, of any age, of the play’s magical qualities. The applause at the end is a delightful idea, and entirely merited.

Vimeo page
Animation Station