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.

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:

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

Caliban

Date: 2011
Posted by: Prospero
Cast: Prospero (himself), Roxana (Ariel)
Credits: Prospero, camera, editing, piano; music – Penderecki, String Quartet no. 2; Arvo Pärt , Magnificat
Duration: 4.08

A strange experimental work by a photographer (it appears) hiding under the name Prospero. None of his other video work indicates any Shakespearean interest, but presumably the choice of name led to some compulsion or other and to this work, named Caliban. It consists of a collection of varied, seemingly unconnected shots (though some refer to The Tempest, including sea, footprints on a beach, and maybe one of Prospero’s books) overlaid by a modern language dialogue between Prospero and Ariel, in which the fear is not of Caliban learning the language of words but rather that of images (he has been taking pictures on his cellphone, we learn). The weakness of the video is that it doesn’t take this concept much further than that, so that it serves as something for personal introspection rather than something to be shared with anyone else. But, as is the way with online video, we share these things anyay. Make of it what you will.

Links:
Vimeo page
Serendipitious Garden (Prospero’s blog)

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

Prospero and Caliban in the Meadowlands

Date: 2008
Posted by: msakarya
Cast: not given
Credits: Made by Mustafa Sakarya
Duration: 2.24

Portentous or what? The gnomic description provided on YouTube says that this is a “surgical edit of Shakespeare’s The Tempest: a love story set in the backdrop of Sept. 11″. What we get is a scene filmed a road bridge (there is incidental noise a-plenty, including the footsteps of the camera operator). A shirtless, bearded, overweight man (presumably Caliban) is wearing headphones and pointing a crossbow at a second man with frockcoat and beard, seated a table with a pile of books and a tape recorder that he is listening to through headphones (Prospero). On one of the bridge supports are several photographs of faces, words (‘Nether World’) and pornographic pictures which Prospero then spray-paints. Close-up of Prospero, then track back to Caliban aiming the crossbow at him. The End. No, I’ve no idea either.

Links:
YouTube page

Miranda make-up

Date: 2009
Posted by: aliabombalia
Cast: AliaBombalia (Miranda)
Credits: Made by AliaBombalia
Duration: 5.28

‘How to’ videos offering make-up advice and beauty tips are a major genre within YouTube, so it’s probably inevitable that one relating to Shakespeare should turn up. Here AliaBaombalia provides tips with practical illustration on preparing to look like Miranda (as she was preparing to do for a drama class). Miranda, we learn, needs to be “very neutral, very sheer” with “flawless skin”, and being aged 15 is “really cutesy, a little bit ditzy too”. For the look she adopts Avon personal match foundation in ivory, MAC select sheer powder in NC15, Boi-Ing concealer in 01, Urban Decay Primer Potion, various colours from the W7 pallette, Great Lash black mascara by Maybelline, and Rimmel Sweet Jelly in Moreish (10). But no eyeliner – she’s grown up on an island, and they wouldn’t have coal pencils there.

Links:
YouTube page

The Tempest

Date: 2008
Posted by: Pettfej
Credits: Written and animated by Peter Olsson. All music credits given at the end of the video
Duration: 9.30

The basic narrative of The Tempest animated in Flash to make it look like a rudimentary computer game (Ferdinand is tested by having to visit the Pit of Doom), with text, graphics and MIDI electronic music (including themes from Super Mario, Monkey Island etc). Shakespeare’s words do not feature.

Links
YouTube page

Fathom

Date: 2007
Posted by: sparkshorts
Credits: Created by sparkshorts
Cast: none
Duration: 1.30

Haunting and unusual animation film which interpets Ariel’s ‘Full fathom five’ song from The Tempest (Act 1 Scene 2) without reciting the words at all. Instead we see a changing hand over which objects and tiny animated figures play, while we hear sea noises, children cries, a burst of Edith Piaf and some heavy breathing, the latter echoing the use of such sounds in Derek Jarman’s feature film The Tempest.

Links
YouTube page