Such Tweet Sorrows: Such A Let Down

Posted on 06 May 2010 Written by

There is something in the air that resembles the stench of manure being spread across the fields to encourage growth of crops. This stench comes in the form of Mudlurk and The RSC with their joint project Such Tweet Sorrows. There has already been numerous articles criticising the project and whilst I have taken these criticism lightly I can’t help but to join the line of people who are let down with Such Tweet Sorrows.

My attitudes towards the project have changed dramatically over the course of the ‘show’ being unfolded. First an excitement at the prospect of twitter being engaged in such a manner that it might make Shakespeare accessible to younger people. Then a slight amazement that this all was happening. Amazement easily turned to acceptance and disappointment as the characters being presented on Twitter were over the top, offensive and anything from the what Shakespeare created. Lastly, my thoughts turn to a different element that has suddenly swept rather unnoticed and caused a rather foul smell surrounding the project.

Taking centre stage, may we introduce Three Mobile Buzz, a branch of the Three mobile phone network who work with social media to engage Three mobile users more – they are one of the official sponsors of the Such Tweet Sorrows project. Last week I was contacted by a Three Mobile Buzz representative with the idea of trialing a Three mobile phone to “get involved in the action by interacting with the characters and taking part in the story” of Such Sweet Sorrows. Naturally I leapt at the chance – I’ve been chosen! Hurrah for a free phone! Hurrah for interaction with a RSC production. Hurrah, Hurrah, Hurrah!

The phone was couriered out to me that afternoon and the representative of Three Mobile Buzz even went to some extra special effort at making the moment memorable for me, and truth be told, I was actually rather excited. Here are some photos documenting what I found:

Now putting aside of the glorified PR what am I left with? A mobile phone and the ability to tweet on the move (something which I don’t currently have on my normal phone). So, naturally I am still happy with the prospect of being able to use twitter everywhere and anywhere to keep in touch with what is going on (oh, yeah, and the latest Such Tweet Sorrows going on’s).

Everything is set up. I use the Twitter For Free (On Three) bookmark installed on the phone to gain access to my twitter account and join in the fun. It takes a while for me to get use to this idea of using a phone to log into my twitter, and a few communication errors I am in. The interface is basic, it is simple to use – in fact, it’s nothing special. Oh.

So what of Such Tweet Sorrow and me? Well, I can follow the story easily enough, and despite my efforts to reply to some of the characters giving them my opinion – sadly the signal is so awful inside buildings that I don’t reply quick enough to be join in being a ‘witness’ for the virtual wedding of Romeo and Juliet. In fact the signal with Three is so terrible that I receive so many ‘twitter timed out’, ‘communication failure’ and error messages that I wonder how I am meant to engage with twitter at all if all I get is nothing.

Let me make this perfectly clear: I have been with a single network since I got my first mobile phone nearly 10 years ago. Has Three made me even remotely think about changing network providers? No, No, and by god NO. I have never experienced such a terrible network with a signal that drops so constantly that making any kind of communication with the outside world is somewhat unobtainable.

Even if I had a signal to be able to operate the free twitter service they are promoting my experiences of the Such Tweet Sorrows project have not changed in the slightest, but what is to be expected? The cast don’t actively join in conversations with the outside world – it all takes place within the insular world they are conducting on Twitter. This to me just makes me want to scream out the obvious! Twitter is meant for communication/dialogue. It is about the engagement and interaction you have with other like minded people.

If you at least choose a medium to be working within, isn’t it right to follow at least some of the basic rules that go with that medium… otherwise it might as well have been taken place on facebook, myspace or even on a dating website – for the context is meaningless. Clearly staging the piece through twitter was a great idea on paper, but anything beyond that it falls sadly at every hurdle.

The real action for me, doesn’t come from action tweeted from the ‘actors’ but from the conversation it develops from the people who are following the action in the twitter fields. Hell, even my response of writing this blog is a reaction to the ‘action’. Maybe it is better to just search for the #suchtweet hashtag to follow the dialogue of the people who are either loving it, or hating it. Maybe that is the whole point? It makes for an interesting read sometimes where people are venting their frustrations or creating little ‘teams’ of support for characters.

Whatever my reasoning of attempting to put the project into a solid mind frame it is being kicked aside by the overwhelming sense that the project is being driven by other actions than the original intention. The involvement of Three Mobile Buzz to get creative people (as I was described) using their service to ‘engage’ with the action, is in fact a method for me to be happily promoting a commercial company. The fact that the characters have mentioned their latest phones, giving a nice photo of their lovely new phone (courtesy of Sony Ericson and Three the two sponsors) they are placing a product directly into twitter feed of young people (who the project is targeted at).

Was this venture by the Royal Shakespeare Company really worth some of the allies they had to make along the way to get the project working? Are we secretly being marketed at a particular mobile phone service through the way the action is being played? Don’t forget that all the characters are using the ‘twitter for free’ app on their Three phones which each time they are used produces a nice link back to the Three Mobile Buzz website – a nice way for Three to be promoting their services. See the below image where ‘via Three for free’ links to the website.

Such Tweet Sorrows is such a let down, and quite frankly I am disappointed that my experience has now been linked with a commercial company such as Three.

Has my experience changed since using Three? Am I in any shape, form or way involved more with the Such Tweet Sorrows project? Do I feel like Three Mobile Buzz are using the project to offer their mobile network to people who will actively promote the company through blogging and tweeting? I think you know the answer.

**UPDATE 12th May 2010**

Since posting my experiences with the Such Tweet Sorrows project, and my experience of using a Three Mobile device, I have received the following statement from 3 via Three Mobile Buzz.

3 is very proud to sponsor the RSC-Mudlark production of Such Tweet Sorrow. 3 has a strong focus on the development of the mobile internet and services such as Twitter have proven extremely popular with our customers.

When Mudlark approached us about this innovative take on the timeless classic Romeo and Juliet, we felt it would be the perfect opportunity for mobile users to benefit both in terms of how Twitter can be used and hopefully to keep them entertained. Moreover, Free Twitter on Three meant that we could make the production accessible to all our users. 3′s sponsorship of Such Tweet Sorrow has proven to be a great way to reward and encourage our users to make the most of their mobiles. The production itself and placement of products within was a much less intrusive way of leveraging our sponsorship. With the production being set in the modern era the use of the mobile was always going to play a significant part for the characters.

As for unreliable connection problems, we can only apologise for the experience you’ve had.  3 has the UK’s biggest (and only 100%) 3G network and we’re investing millions of pounds so that by the end of 2010, our customers will have an even bigger, better and faster network. This means better coverage when it comes to making calls or using the internet on your mobile. 3 also actively encourages the use of internet services and often offers them for free e.g. Skype and Twitter.

So, what do I make of this? Well to be honest, not a great deal. You can’t really expect a company such as 3 to be able to give anything other than some kind of formally written statement. Naturally they would think that they are improving ways in which their users are engaging with the internet and the applications relating to that. But this is only in the hope that those using or considering using 3 as a network, buy into their product with having ‘free internet services’.

As for their sponsoring of the production, I can of course realise that without that form of sponsoring we wouldn’t have gotten the same experience as we have. The use of phones and applications are of course important but it does make me wonder what potential the production could have had on a much more user level, without the sponsorship. How would the production fair across multiple networks and platforms?

Whatever the case may be, I still have a huge dislike to the project, and whilst I am going to class it as an experiment into digital theatre and performance,  I only hope that the next project takes on board all the criticism it has received.

**UPDATE 19th May**

A small update regarding the above statement. In the original statement that 3 sent over, they said that The RSC had approached them regarding the project, however it was actually Mudlark. They wish to apologise for any confusion, and I have kindly changed the above statement to reflect this.

So who approached who about what? Yes, it’s complicated, right?

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

More Posts - Website

Follow Me:

7 Comments For This Post

  1. Miriam Says:

    And you haven’t even mentioned how shoddy the writing is – this is what happens when you ask a bunch of actors with little to no experience in improv and who are not writers to spend their time making it up themselves. While they may excel at the spoken medium, their writing style leaves much to be desired.

  2. thejives Says:

    Such Tweet critics throw a lot of harsh criticism at actors, I’ve noticed. They can’t write, they aren’t good enough, etc.

  3. voyd Says:

    While I agree that some of the attempts at product placement have fallen flatter than a flat thing from flat street in flat town, and could have been handled a LOT better – I can’t really agree with your take on the production itself. Partly, I guess, because I’m enjoying the entire exercise far too much to tear it apart into its constituent mechanics – it’s the first attempt at such an endeavour, and as such, could be a hell of a lot worse than it actually is. Hopefully, going forward, they will learn how to deal with the demands of the sponsors better, and find better ways of integrating such requirements into the story in a less intrusive manner, as well as learning from this production and improving the over-all quality of the script.

    All-in-all though, for a first effort it hasn’t been bad, I’m enjoying it immensely and am looking forwards to their next production in this media

    of course, as in everything, your mileage may vary


  4. Galify Says:

    Nearly four weeks into the whole project and I’m having, too, mixed feelings about the joint Mudlark/RSC efforts at making Shakespeare more accessible to a younger techno-savvy audience. It only took a Guardian article and a smartphone to get me hooked on this new kind of drama. For the past few weeks, I’ve been regrettably unable to tear myself away from either mobile or laptop, neglecting children and husband equally for the sake of a few salvaged moments catching up on the latest on SuchTweet.
    Half-way through, the retelling of Mercutio and Tybalt’s scripted demise during a footy brawl was one of the most gripping moments of the show with tweeters getting flurried all of a sudden and holding their breath in sync.
    Such Tweet is best appreciated from the sidelines. The hashtagged feed has become my gateway to a world of dedicated followers, some of them basking in self-congratulatory Rted glory, others, truly creative past masters of 140 chs condensed witticism. The show has,notably, managed to reach a wider audience far beyond youngsters’ much-preferred soppiness.
    Needless to say, the artistic input from the cast has been of varying quality. While the more experienced actors are exquisitely adept at doing their respective character justice just by steering clear of corny lines- I cannot thank them enough for being so inventive and stimulating. They had me all in a flutter more than once-I often catch myself wincing at the young lady’s trite musings and tantrums and the sheer amount of aggressive talk bandied about.
    I feel the same as you on SuchTweet failing to be consistent with the basic rules of Twitter-style communication. Is it because the actors are contract bound not to get too involved with their fans or is it because groups of like-minded followers are very much an island to themselves, It is often pretty lonely out there, which makes it all the more difficult to relate and share in the drama.
    Although I’m intent on following the story to its conclusion, this four-week-long tragedy has already taken its toll . Is it a measure of its addictive hold on me that I can’t help, for now, feeling so emotionally drained ?

  5. Rhys Jennings Says:

    I have to admit that I got swept up in the Such Tweet sorrow excitement a while ago. I thought “what a great idea! That’ll be so much fun”.

    But then I realised how much effort was involved in following the story. If you miss a day or two you really have to go back and fill the gaps. I got so wrapped up in the election recently that I just completely forgot about it. By the time I remembered it was too late. I’m not about to swot up on weeks worth of tweetage. I’ve got better things to do…

    But there was so much potential. Maybe I’m just too easily distracted.

  6. Denna Jones Says:

    Interesting post, thanks. I got talked into switching from T-Mobile to 3 by shady Shropshire re-sellers. You’re right. 3 reception is absolutely rubbish. I’ve been in my flat in central London and been unable to get a signal. I’ve complained with no results. So am just waiting out the end of my two year indentured servitude contract. Roll on November.

  7. Superthorsten Says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience as a premium tester of 3 for free. That was really interesting! And I totally agree, esp. the product placement in the content of the tweets was really below any artistic value (a bit like football players telling us at half-time which shampoo the use).

    But honestly, isn’t this general attitude of denial a bit naive? There’s this whole big complicated relationship between culture and capital and you can’t be sure whether ads finance art or whether art sells commodities (and even your webpage is not free from this). Really, no offence – I think this is how most cultural production works – and in your case it’s even rather moderate. The question should be whether the interference of capital interferes with artistic outcome – and here I’m totally with you: in STS it does more than necessary, though not in those little notes that tell you how a tweet was posted but rahter in things like Juliet’s naive: OMG This mobile has 3 for free… I was only waiting for a twitpic or vid with her smiling to the jingle of 3

5 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. Musings in more than 140 characters on Such Tweet Sorrow « Blogging By Numbers Says:

    [...] that word) Such Tweet Sorrow, the RSC’s twitter adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, has been as well received as a proverbial lead balloon. Or a Montague at a Capulet cabinet meeting if you want a [...]

  2. Parting With Such Tweet Sorrow « Open Source Theatre Says:

    [...] lauding from trendy new arts types. There have been a few insightful (and mainly critical) reviews from various arts sites and bloggers, but no widespread critical engagement. Which is a real shame, [...]

  3. Parting With Such Tweet Sorrow « Harry Giles : Home Says:

    [...] lauding from trendy new arts types. There have been a few insightful (and mainly critical) reviews from various arts sites and bloggers, but no widespread critical engagement. Which is a real shame, [...]

  4. Tweet No More | A Younger Theatre Says:

    [...] completely tore apart Such Sweet Sorrows (The RSC and Mudlurk Romeo and Juliet on Twitter) and it’s breaking of [...]

  5. Should Arts Organisations Use Twitter? | house Says:

    [...] adventures of the Royal Opera House’s twitter opera, or The Royal Shakespeare Company’s ‘Such Tweet Sorrow’, he was referring to the everyday challenge that can be addressed with organisations seeking to [...]

Leave a Reply

Comments are subject to A Younger Theatre's Comment Policy. By submitting your comment you automatically agree to to the Comment Policy.
Advertise Here
Advertise Here

Join our E-Newsletter

Exclusive offers, opportunities and updates from AYT.