Bright Summer Night

Date: 2016
Posted by: The Candle Wasters
Cast: Meesha Rikk (Puck Goodall), Kalisha Wasasala (Lena Balavu), Dani Yourukova (Deme George), Maddie Adams (Mia Selene), Shane Murphy (Zander Makau), Thomasin McKenzie (Petra Quince), Gala Baumfield (Nicky Xing), Nova Moala-Knox (Frankie Piper), Brendan King (Taylor Sutton), Jack Buchanan (Bryn Alberich), Neenah Dekkers-Reihana (Awhina Parekura), Mouce Young (Poppy Hóu), Freya Milner (Thea Quince)
Credits: Main credits: Elsie Bollinger (director, editor, script writer, music supervisor), Sally Bollinger (script writer, post production supervisor), Bevin Linkhorn (producer), Minnie Grace (producer), Jess Charlton (Director of Photography), Jen Smith (1st Assistant Director), Nicole Winer (1st Assistant Camera), Jordan Beresford (1st Assistant Camera), Jordan Beresford, Blair Berg, Ross Dredge, Alex Marie, Alexandra Farley, Anne van der Pasch, Michael Young, Mark Papalii, Andy MacRae (all 2nd Assistant Camera), Jessi Golding (Sound Recordist), Claris Jacobs (Production & Costume Designer), Nic Learmonth (Art Director), Robbie Nicol (Script Supervisor)
Duration: 10 episodes

The third Shakespeare web series by the New Zealand production team The Candle Wasters is its most polished and courageous work yet. The company’s first two series adapted Much Ado About Nothing (Nothing Much To Do) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Lovely Little Losers), the second serving as a sequel to the first, with much of the same cast. Bright Summer Night, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, shows some significant changes: a glossier production, a move away from the vlogging style in which characters spoke confidentially to the camera to a more usual dramatic style, a shorter number of episodes (a trim ten), and a new cast. The tone is also darker, the style more assured, the production credits that much longer. What was charmingly amateur has become ever more meticulously professional.

Shakespeare has once again be translated to the world and language of the young in modern day New Zealand, though such is the actors’ mixture of names and cultural heritages that it could be – and is meant to be – any place. The action takes place over the few hours of an all-night house party. All episodes bar the last are named after one of the characters and broadly shows the story from their point of view. The parallels with Shakespeare are amusingly made without being too forced: from the names of the characters (Hermia becomes Mia, Nick Bottom become Nicky, and so on), to the fancy dress theme which allows some of the players to wear fairy wings, to the rude mechanical becoming The Mechanicals, a band who put on a song for the rest of the party in the series finale. The four young lovers are now a heterosexual pair and a homosexual pair, Bryn (Oberon) and Awhina (Titania) a bickering senior couple, and Puck an ambiguous figure, whose personal uncertainty emerges as the series’ underlying motif.

The most striking is the use of recreational drugs to stand in for magic, a pill named Idleness being the cause of the lovers’ confusion, distributed by Puck. It is a practical dramatic solution, but a little shocking to see it applied so frankly.

360-degree promo video for Bright Summer Night, following Puck through the house party

The tone of the piece is far from the traditional light view of the play (such as the BBC’s recent production, produced by Russell Davies, kept to, for all its surface radical invention). No one is happy. The students are torn apart internally by the complexity of relationships, and externally by the problems of the world, especially climate change. Both are summed up in the Mechanicals’ song ‘Relationship Problems and the Environment’, which says “There’s so much wrong with the world, we’ll never make it better” but also declares that “We have to do something”. That becomes the message of the series, that, as difficult as things are, you move on, because you have to do so. The only character that cannot move on, it turns out, is Puck, and Bright Summer Night makes its strongest mark on Shakespeare’s play by turning it into Puck’s tragedy, as the memorable tenth episode makes clear.

Bright Summer Night benefited from a Kickstarter campaign, then gained support from NZ on Air and the British Council. it is a slick, confident production, impressively shot (all of it at night) and performed throughout, with particularly good integration of music into the scenes. It lacks the happy charm and ramshackle invention of its predecessors, and like some of its subjects perhaps takes things too seriously with insufficient reason for doing so. But overall this is inventive, thought-provoking and multi-layered filmmaking. Shakespeare, in his quatercentenary year, is proven to be as relevant and adaptable as ever.

Series of behind the scenes videos, with the points of view of the different groups of characters

YouTube series page
Behind the scenes series
Bright Summer Night section on The Candle Wasters’ site
Kickstarter page

Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

YouTube page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

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.

Vimeo page

Oberon v Titania

Date: 2009
Posted by: chrisnatti
Cast: Borts Minorts (Oberon), Ball Ball Minorts (Titania), Bonestein (Titania fairy dancer), Skin Jones (Oberon fairy dancer)
Credits: A Chris Carlone Creation
Duration: 3.03

Now here’s something to stop you in your tracks. Borts Minorts is a New York performance artist/dancer/musician, real name Chris Carlone, who with his like-minded cohorts combines performance art with avant garde music, pantomime and off-the-wall dance to create an exuberant brew of pure artistic energy. Add Shakespeare into the mix and the results are compelling.

And so we have Oberon v Titania, an open-air assault on Shakespeare’s characters with wild dancing amid the trees, done to the accompaniment of a mad mix of tortured guitar and trombone, and intercut with a concert of the same song (there are words, largely indecipherable). Borts Minorts himself is Oberon, dressed in the white ski suit that is his customary costume. Ball Ball Minorts (his sister, apparently) plays Titania. The how and why of it are a little difficult to determine, but it is pure Dada.

YouTube page
HD YouTube version
Bort Minorts’ MySpace

Mini Monologues: Snippets of Shakespeare and others

Date: 2008
Posted by: CoreyAllenX
Credits: Created by Corey Allen
Cast: Corey Allen
Duration: 8.28

YouTube is awash with audition pieces from hopeful actors showing off their Shakespearean party pieces. This selection of pieces from 2008 has been put together by New York actor Corey Allen, and features selections from Titus Andronicus, Othello and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (plus others, non-Shakespearean), filmed in a cafe complete with background noises. What is compelling about such pieces is not so much the quality or otherwise of the acting, but of the intensity and intimacy of performances delivered in close-up.

YouTube page

The Seasons Alter

Date: 2002
Posted by: Futerra (and now keiraweb2)
Credits: Directed by Roger Lunn, produced by Rebekah Gilbertson, Ed Gillespie, Alan Graves and Solitaire Townsend, music by Matt Scott, cinematography by Dave Griffiths, editing by Lucia Zucchetti, production design by Jane Harwood, costumes by Suzanne Barnes, sound by Alison Bown
Cast: Cherie Lunghi (Titania), Mark Owen (Oberon), Keira Knightley (Helena)
Duration: 4.04

The Seasons Alter is a promotional film made by Futerra, an organisation campaigning for climate change. It makes ingenious use of dialogue between Oberon and Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 2 Scene 1 to highlight the issues of global warming, human complicity and human responsibility (“Therefore the moon, the governess of floods, Pale in her anger washes all the air, That rheumatic diseases do abound; And thorough this distemperature we see The seasons alter”). Cherie Lunghi plays Titania, Lloyd Owen is Oberon, and Keira Knightley is their ‘daughter’ Helena (of course, they have no daughter in Shakespeare’s play). The film has been widely distributed on assorted free video sites.

YouTube page