Last week the RSC began a new arts project, the idea is they’re going to play out Romeo and Juliet (set in the modern day & no Shakespearean dialogue) over the next several weeks; via Twitter.
Now firstly let me say, I’m not beholden to Shakespeare’s texts, I know they’ve been/are constantly chopped and changed, moved around and edited, time and locations changed; all for different interpretations of the play and in some cases there not even being a definitive “proper” version of the play, due to Shakespeare himself making changes, and different versions published.
I’m also fond of post-modernism and deconstruction, so reinterpreting Shakespeare’s works; divorcing his language from the stories; treating the characters as “real” people and imagining what they would do outside of what we know from the play and presenting it through a system far far away from the stage, isn’t something I’m automatically against, in fact I’m incredibly open to it. And to an extent it’s already been done in the excellent play/film “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead” presenting the story of Hamlet from the point of view of his two friends.
However, Shakespeare’s plays were entirely about the language. The plots were often a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas or straight up copies of others, it was his gift for language that we remember him; that cements him as the world’s greatest playwright. To remove that is to remove what makes Shakespeare’s plays…well, Shakespearian.
Of course who knows, maybe it’ll be startlingly original and inventive and intelligent…oh wait, Juliet (or Julietcap16 as she is known on twitter) recently tweeted at her nurse:
“Could you just pick me up this weeks heat? Think there’s an article on R-Pattz!”
“OMGosh i am so minging! I have a new spot on my forehead and blisters all over my feet from yesterday!”
Whilst ‘Romeo_mo’ tweeted:
“anybody know where a good place for Modern Warfare 2 cheats, hints etc is? and thaks for all your support everyone,really appriciate it.”
I mean come on this comes across as such a lazy, boring and simplistic attempt to present Romeo and Juliet as ‘normal’ teenagers in modern times, but it gives us nothing. It’s no deeper understanding of the character, it doesn’t give us anything to the thematic elements of doomed fate. That might sound like I’m asking too much for what are no more than 140 word tweets, but if I can’t ask that of it, then why bother? It’s just repetition of pop culture for the sake of it. And yes I know that post-modernism can be about those ideas, about the surface, about reflecting it’s meaninglessness or seeing the art in it. But in this case it’s just…boring.
It could be argued it’s to help cement the idea that Romeo and Juliet were normal “teenagers”, which is kind of inaccurate, as the very concept of teenagers didn’t exist in Shakespearian times, but I take their point that it could help to present them as normal people that can sometimes be lost to modern audiences due to Shakespeare’s language not being immediately relatable/understandable. But then it’s not like young love is this archaic notion that we can’t relate to. Or to present us with a “what if” scenario of how Romeo and Juliet would play out in the modern day – but to really play it out in the modern day, with modern situations and modern mindset etc. You would need to dramatically change plot/character elements to the point of it being as far away from the original work as you can get. Baz Lurhman’s Romeo and Juliet put it in a modern setting, but kept the language, and really that’s the furthest away you can get and still have it recognisably Shakespeare (rather than just using the same character names).
I’m not suggesting it’s a complete waste of time (well maybe a little) but for the RSC to be committing time and money to it seems excessive, when it’s something a group of people with a bit of planning could have done in their spare time for lulz. I don’t you really need much acting experience or a “prepared story grid” (BBC article) to tweet that Juliet has a crush on R-Patz.
But then really I think I’m over-analysing it, not to be cynical but you can’t help but feel it’s a slightly lame attempt to be ‘down with the kidz’, hoping that perhaps if all those young girls who love Twilight hear that Juliet gets upset about spots “zomg just lyk me!!1!” they’ll suddenly find it relatable and start turning up at the Globe theatre with t-shirts that say “Bite Me Romeo”; a new film adaptation of Hamlet will have him as the lead singer of an emo band (My Oedipal Romance); whilst Lady Macbeth will move to a new castle and find herself in a heart-warming fish out of water story where she finds out the true meaning of love and friendship. “Is this a dagger I see before me, or are you just happy to see me?” in theatres June 2012 (“5 stars!” Daily Mail)