Posted by: The Voices Project
Cast: Emma Campbell, Melanie Araya, Dianne Kaye Aldé, Patrick W Richards, Izzy Stevens, Reece Vella, Ebony Vagulans, Lavinia White, Kathy Nguyen, Leo King Hii (all Hamlet)
Credits: Director: Damien Power, Producer: Bec Cubitt, Co-Producers: Eva DiBlasio, Eleanor Winkler, DOP: Guido Gonzalez, Editor: Nikki Stevens
The multi-voice Hamlet ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy has become, if not quite a cliché, then if a familiar, even instinctual video response to the play. I think it was the South Bank Show in the UK, in a 1989 programme on the history of Hamlet in performance, which first edited together clips from different renditions into one soliloquy (Olivier, Gielgud, Burton etc.). What looked like a witty one-off has turned into a way to demonstrate how these are the words of everyman or woman being spoken to everyman or woman. The speech becomes not just one person’s thoughts, but anyones.
Such video intepretations find a natural home on Vimeo or YouTube, where the space available is best suited to the soliloquy. The prime example of the multi-voice soliloquy is the Hillside Student Community’s Hamlet’s Soliloquy, already praised on BardBox, where schoolchildren share the words with uncanny knowingness, and there are several examples on YouTube where someone has edited together clips from different feature film versions
Now we have TO BE, courtesy of the Fresh Ink programme of the Australian Theatre for Young People (atyp), which is looking at monologues through its Voices Project. As part of the project they have produced this video with ten young performers from Sydney who take it in turns to speak Hamlet’s words – on the beach, on a subway platform, on a basketball court, in a car, and so on – the monologue as multilogue. It has a particularly effective opening, in which each of the actors gets to say their ‘to be’, before the rest of the soliloquy is spoken by each in turn. The peformances are fresh, varied and meaningful, making us hear and see the words anew.
It is interesting to see how the online video medium encourages close engagement with the camera, the performers either looking directly at us or turning their heads towards us mid-shot. Feature film Hamlets seldom look us in the eye; stage ones never; online video ones continually. It is because they know that we are looking closely, on our laptops, smartphones or tablets. Online video is encouraging a more personalised, sharing form of Shakespeare, one in which we become as much a part of the performance as the performers – through watching, through our comments, through blogging and embedding, through sharing links, through the intimacy of address. The online video reaches out to a multiplicity of platforms; a video with multiple voices such as this is therefore emblematic of the whole genre. It is Shakespeare that can come from anywhere, and can be anywhere.