fringe: @shakespeare.com

The premise for @Shakespeare.com goes a little something like this...

@Shakespeare.com explores the impact of contemporary modes of communication such as facebook, twitter, email, texting and sexting on relationships and uses some of Shakespeare's most famous characters, themes and plots to do so.

And it was an unusual experience for a couple of reasons... firstly, it's the only play I've ever been to where they encourage you to leave your mobile switched on and one of the few shows where the cast moves through the waiting crowd in the foyer right before the show.

The reason they encourage you to leave your mobile switched on is that audience members have been asked for their mobile phone numbers before the show, and at a certain point all the characters on stage call people in the audience.

And yes, I was one of those people... I think one of the girls who played one of the Macbeth witches (amongst other things) was the one who called me. Very strange, especially as I could hear her over the phone, but it took a few seconds for me to actually find her on stage.

I was somewhat surprised by the average age of the audience... they seemed older than I was expecting... whether that was because the play had the word Shakespeare in the title or not I don't know. But now that I'm thinking about it, I'm not sure if this play really knew who it's target audience was... whether it was older people who don't quite understand the technology or younger people for whom it's second nature, I don't know. In essence it was a little of both.

The cast itself (with one exception) is University age (a number of them are graduating Theatre Studies students from the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle), and that added to the fact that it was opening night of a very short run meant that there were the occasional flubbed line and I'm not sure some of them knew when they are actually under the spotlight properly.

Having said that there were a few standout performances (I can't name names since the program doesn't mention it, and none of them really show up in Google). At the top of the list are the guy who played the Bard himself, complete with frilly collar and pantaloons... the best male member of the cast in fact. Secondly, the girl who played Cobweb... feisty and fantastic! And an honourable mention has to go to the shortest girl in the cast (the one playing the "motherly" characters)...

It was a trifle uneven overall... I think they had a great premise, but the execution felt a little haphazard, as though they either had too many ideas to fill up the time but didn't necessarily chose the best ones... or else they ran out of ideas just from one play and ended up throwing everything and the kitchen sink at it towards the end.

A large portion of the play concerned Romeo and Juliet... and I think they could have gone further than they did with it. Especially with the whole idea that the ending of R+J would have been very different in the modern age.

I also wasn't completely convinced about the "time travelling robot" plot device that underpins the whole show... I think it could have worked as almost a straight adaptation of R+J with texting and Facebook, or they could have run the whole play with just Shakespeare and Cobweb. It felt like a lost opportunity to me.

Some of the best sections were when they contrasted modern language with Shakespearean English... even if modern speech does lack a certain poetry compared with Shakespeare.

Unfortunately I think the weakest section was probably the Macbeth MMORPG, it just didn't quite ring true for me, but the idea was interesting.

To sum up, I'd have to say that it did feel quite "studenty" at times, but there were some pleasurable moments.

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