Monday, April 12, 2010

Such Tweet Sorrow

And now for something completely different.

There is a bit of an art project happening on Twitter for the next few weeks. Under the title Such Tweet Sorrow, the tale of Romeo and Juliet will be played out, in real-time, in the social media environment.

No, we're not talking about a line-by-line recital of Shakespeare's work delivered no more than 140 letters at a time.

We're talking about a handful of people, each with a role that mmmmmmore or less translates over to modern times, tweeting in character about events, thoughts, feelings, as the storyline unfolds. At the moment they are setting the scene - so, for example, Juliet is tweeting about arranging a party for her sixteenth birthday in a couple of weeks, and Friar Laurence is blethering on about community outreach projects for disaffected youth, and Mercutio and his friends came fourth in the pub quiz. There's also a certain amount of incorporation of other social media, such as Juliet putting a guided tour of her bedroom on YouTube.

I'm quite fascinated by it.

One of the characters has already begun engaging with the audience - Mercutio tweeted that he'd woken up with a hangover and got in a discussion with a 'real' twitter user about hangover cures. From reading the tweets of one of the writers, it looks like the characters don't have to do this, but he's hoping they will. So am I, although I think it'll be a fine line to walk as they gain popularity... especially what with the whole "you cannot control twitter" can of worms. There's a space on the site for the #suchtweet hashtag and I'm not sure that's ever ended well.

The really confusing bit is that if the characters were real people, I'd have stopped following them already. Juliet is a naive and irritating 15-year-old over-privileged princess whose exclamation-mark use alone would have had me hitting the unfollow within an hour... but that's exactly who the character is supposed to be. Tybalt is the sort of sulky brat I'd prefer to avoid meeting, and while Mercutio would be great fun at a party I wouldn't give him my phone number. It's bizarre to keep reading all their tweets and reacting with "oh, FFS," and then remember that this is who they are supposed to be and it's integral to the story that they are vapid/sulky/whatever.

I'll be interesting to see how it develops over the weeks, both in terms of the characters and in terms of the audience. Usually you only care about what's going on in Verona for a couple of hours and it's constantly fast-forwarding to the 'interesting bits', not sure what will happen with this slow-burn thing.

I'm also really hoping to find out more about the smoke and mirrors part of it as well, the planning and preparation and involvement.

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