Our revels now are ended

I am closing down BardBox. I launched the site back in May 2008 as a means to start curating the many inventive forms of Shakespeare videos which were starting to appear on YouTube, and which seemed to me to be as creative, distinctive and worthy of praise as any other form of Shakspearean production. Four years on I have posted on some 150 videos, which is just a small proportion of the tens of thousands out there, but I hope that the few that I have selected justify the endeavour and have encouraged others to explore some of these works for themselves. Now it is time to stop, because I have said what I want to say, and I am reducing much of my online writing to a single outlet, at www.lukemckernan.com, where you may find more of my thoughts on filming Shakespeare in the future.

This final selection, made in 2010 by A-level student geoggers6, is as good an example of the genre as you might hope to find – a quite delightful animation loosely inspired by Prospero’s parting words. Our revels now are ended, but the videos live on. BardBox will therefore remain online as an archive (so new comments will be blocked), in which form I hope it may be an inspiration to some. I’m also keeping the BardBox YouTube channel (and its successor channel) going, where you will find more videos that I have been able to comment on here.

Thank you to all the creative filmmakers whose work BardBox has highlighted, and to the loyal few who have followed and sometimes kindly praised the site.

Romeo & Juliet, 2553 A.D.

Date: 2007
Posted by: mcdonaldjm
Cast: Meaghan Sloane (Chorus), Richard Jau (Sampson), Mitch Ryan (Gregory), Jeff Heilman (Abram), Jim Raley (Benvolio), Jordan Gebhardt (Tybalt), Fred Tollini, S.J. (The Prince), Bruce McDonald (Montagu), Victoria McDonald (Lady Montagu), Jon McDonald (Romeo), Arbiter (Juliet)
Credits: Directed and edited by Jon McDonald, music from the score to Titus (2000) by Elliot Goldenthal: Philimelagram, Arrows of the Gods, and Tamora’s Pastorale
Duration: 8.53 (part 1), 4.36 (part 2)

There is a whole genre out there of machinima versions of Shakespeare. Machinima are animations usally made using video game software, where fans of games such as Halo, Call of Duty, Second Life, World of Warcraft etc., and repply the figures and backgrounds to their own narratives. An increasing number have chosen to recreate scenes from Shakespeare in this form, frequently emphasising battle sequences, and mostly playing on the comic disparity between Shakespeare’s scenes and the outlandish figures of the fantasy worlds of video games.

This school project adaptation of Romeo & Juliet Act 1 Scene 1 uses imagery from the game Halo 3. It is both typical and distinctive among the genre. Typical, because of the comic effect of bizarre science fiction figures uttering Shakespeare’s words and the time devoted to the battle scene. Distinctive, because so many of Shakespeare’s words are heard. Unike other examples of the genre, which either paraphrase the text or use just a few key lines, here the filmmakers offers us reasonably long stretches of dialogue (albeit with some modern paraphrases) that draw us all the more into this unearthly world where Montagus and Capulets are luridly coloured robots from 500 years hence. The brawl between the two camps is well chosen (the Spartans and the Elites from the original game), though the absence of Juliet herself (beyond a wordless appearance portrayed by the Halo 3 character Arbiter) tends to render the video’s title an irrelevance. There are two parts, taking us not very far into the play, but far enough to recognise that an imaginative work has been realised.

Links:
Part 1
Part 2
Wikipedia on Machinima

Hour to Hour

Date: 2011
Posted by: Double G Productions
Cast: None
Credits: Double G Productions
Duration: 0.52

‘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.

Links:
Vimeo page

The Tempest Animation

Date: 2010
Posted by: Jamie McDine
Cast:(voices) Denice Hicks (Ariel/sailor), Amanda Card McCoy (Miranda/sailor), Joseph Robinson (Boatswain/Ferdinand/Stephano), Robert Marigza (Antonio/Alonso/Caliban), Brian Russell (Gonzalo/Prospero/Trinculo)
Credits: Filmed by Jamie McDine; Bill Crosby, sound engineer
Duration: 5.39

It is Shakespeare’s birthday, and let’s celebrate this august event by posting one of the most inventive Shakespeare videos this site has come across, certainly as far as school projects are concerned. It was made Year 7 students at Matravers School in Westbury, Wiltshire UK, with some help from artist in residence Jamie McDine. Its subject is The Tempest, and it looks like no other Shakespeare video you are likely to have seen.

Perhaps inspired by Tom Phillips’ A Humument (the pages of a book individually remade as works of art), McDine has taken the page of The Tempest and treated them with smears and blotches, then overlaid this with drawings produced by the children inspired by scenes from the play. The video takes us through the pages as the narrative progresses, with voices reading out snatches from the play (and not necessarily the usual familiar quotations). The jerkiness of the pseudo-animation can be a little wearing, but what impresses is the sense of invention and discovery, which draws you into thinking about the play afresh. And that is what the best of these online videos do – like the best stage productions, and the best Shakespeare films, they make the play new again. It doesn’t matter if it’s the ‘full’ play, an extract or a condensation, as here. What matters is the sense of discovery, of a new world.

“Is this the best school film ever made?” asks the filmmaker on the accompanying notes. Perhaps not quite (the Hillside Student Community’s interpretation of Hamlet‘s ‘To be or not to be’ still feels like the best to me), but it is well worth experiencing.

The post is a contribution to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust’s Happy Birthday Shakespeare project. Do follow the link and find posts from other bloggers taking part.

Links:
Vimeo page
Happy Birthday Shakespeare site

Shakespeare Shortz

Date: 2009
Posted by: citizenstheatre
Cast: Staff of the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow
Credits: not given
Duration: 2.56

Shakespeare Shortz was a competition launched by the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, in 2009, inviting anyone to contribute a video of them reciting their favourite lines from Shakespeare in under two minutes. The winners won tickets to the theatre’s production of Othello. The video above illustrates what they were looking for, with various staff members of the theatre delivering their lines with affection, like a deeply-held passion at last brought forth. The competition is over now, though submissions are still invited just for fun, and in a way it’s similar to what BardBox is aiming to do – documenting, storing and redistributing a new form of Shakespearean production whose strength lies in its community.

The sixteen responses to the video can be found on YouTube here or on the Citizens Theatre’s own site, here. The two winners were Max Does Shakespeare by yobkulcha (yet another example of children reciting words beyond their understanding):

and Calum MacAskill Porter by SkinheadNinja, a particularly clever piece of elementary animation, which merits far more YouTube views than it has received so far:

All in all, this was a good idea that should have had far wider distribution. If only the RSC or the National had come up with it – then Shakespeare and online video might have started to gain the attention it undoubtedly deserves.

Links:
YouTube page
Responses to the competition on YouTube
Citizens Theatre Shakespeare Shortz site

How to marginalise women like a Shakespearean

Date: 2008
Posted by: 104thouot
Cast: Mike, Bob, Jake, Steve
Credits: Made by Jake, Bob, Mike and Honeybuns
Duration: 5.29

A smart critique of Shakespearean dramatic logic (specifically Hamlet) and the treatment of women. It is made in the most rudimentary form with stick-people drawings, overlaid by commentary in the form of advice to the distracted male. So Hamlet, things are looking bad for you, but what’s worse is that your girlfriend’s going crazy. What do to?

Well, as any good Shakespearean knows, a verbose use of dialogue’s absolutely essential to the situation. Tell her your plans and hope she understands? That’s not a good idea. As everyone knows she’ll probably misunderstand because her mind works differently. Instead of listening to logic she will attempt to describe how your lives together will be much better than any silly bit of revenge your deceased father has cooked up in the underworld. To avoid this, it is always best to profess that you have never loved her…

And so on. The American 12th grade students who made this jest know the play well (though not so well that they don’t get a few words wrong in their quotations) and have thought about it acutely, albeit with all the narrowness of a 21st century sensibility. Once you have taken from Shakespeare all feeling and poetry, perhaps all you do have left are stick people.

Links:
YouTube page

Rómeó és Júlia

Date: 2009
Posted by: BalazsSimon
Cast: animation
Credits: Produced by Simon Balázs, music by Yuki Kajiura: ‘Akatsuki no Kuruma’
Duration: 2.37

This delicate piece of Hungarian animation takes the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet and through a few graceful gestures manages to express, love, freedom of the spirit, and the death that awaits the star-crossed lovers. Sentimental, yes, but in its brief way it is perfectly expressed.

Links:
YouTube page

Othello/Simpsons Trailer

Date: 2007
Posted by: pulsetv.ir
Credits: Created by Alireza Alborzi
Cast: The Simpsons
Duration: 1.46

One doesn’t expect to find Shakespeare parodies on an Iranian web TV channel, but that’s where this video resides (specifically on Pulsetv.ir, which is a channel on Blip.tv). It’s a mash-up of scenes from assorted episodes of The Simpsons to produce the world’s favourite American family’s interpretation of Othello. Homer is Othello, Marge is Desdemona, Sideshow Bob is Iago – it all just falls into place. The humour is doubled by the portentous trailer commentary, cheekily lifted from the trailer for Oliver Parker’s feature film Othello (as are the closing titles). Silly stuff, but done well.

Links:
Blip.tv page

Othello

Date: 2009
Posted by: John Carson McCarthy
Credits: Created by John McCarthy
Cast: None
Duration: 0.54

A striking animated intepretation of Othello, without characters or any action from the play. Instead, and using the Maya and After Effects animation programmes, the filmmaker illustrates Othello’s turmoil and self-destruction through images of a house collapsing and turning into a prison. A few quotations appear as signposts. Brief and rudimentary as it is, this is a startlingly imaginative piece of work.

Links:
Vimeo page

Hamlet Act 2

Date: 2003
Posted by: abnormalpapsmear
Credits: Inappropriate Emotion Theatre presents. Music and animation by Greg Wrenn. Some models provided by Eggington Productions
Cast: Greg Wrenn (Hamlet), Philip Michaels (Ghost)
Duration: 3.26

Very enjoyable jokey computer animation, depicting Hamlet’s encounter with the ghost. There is more invention here in three minutes than many films have at thirty times the length. Swooping camera, dynamic low-level tracking shots, striking changes in angle, surprise visual references (the use of a slot machine), grand music and of course the unexpected factor of having the parts played by what the filmmaker calls mutant teddy bears. Yes it’s silly, but all the words are there, and it’s done in a spirit of affectionate fun.

Links:
YouTube page
Cheese Wars (website with Hamlet Act 2)