I’ve never been the kind of theatregoer who can go and see a play or indeed a musical and watch it in a detached, analytical fashion.

When I read books and plays at university I was rubbish at assessing themes and symbolism and all that kind of thing, simply because I ended up getting too involved and caring about the characters and the only judgement I ever automatically made was whether or not I liked the protagonists. I know that a musical has done its work when I find myself having a little weep at some stage, whether it’s through happiness or sadness.


But as involved as I may get, I’ve never actually been part of a production. Until now.

Such Tweet Sorrow, the RSC’s initiative to produce a version of Romeo and Juliet via the medium of Twitter, has had an awful lot of publicity recently as people debate whether or not it’s believable or if it’s catering to the lowest common denominator.

Even the most ardent #suchtweet fan will admit that there have been problems with the timeline and the way a secret love affair has been conducted on a public platform.

The thing is, I’ve not really been thinking about whether it’s an utter bastardisation of Shakespeare’s work or its truthfulness to the text. I’m too busy worrying about whether Juliet is going to get beaten up by her dad or where Romeo is hiding or what on earth Jess is going to do with her life – even though intellectually I already know what’s going to happen. I’ve been following the characters’ tweets and what’s more I’ve been responding to them – both by replying to them directly and by discussing the unfolding events with other followers.

As the play reaches its denouement, the #suchtweeters spent this weekend mourning Mercutio, stabbed by Tybalt at a football match on Bank Holiday Monday. The play’s followers couldn’t attend the funeral any more than Juliet could (banned by her father from leaving the house) but instead they grieved for him in their own way, with a #mercutiomemorial. They contributed songs to a playlist, and video clips from YouTube.

Perhaps the oddest thing about this ostentatious expression of grief is that every single follower knew that Mercutio was going to die on that day. We spent the day anxiously clicking ‘refresh’ on our Twitter feeds, waiting for Tybalt to stab his old enemy and for Romeo to avenge his best friend. For all the followers’ involvement and interaction with the characters, they cannot actually affect the timeline or the events that unfold. Yet that doesn’t seem to matter. Partly this is because the characterisation is so strong that regardless of their fates, the audience care about them. And partly it’s a tribute to the cast who are dealing with an unusual stage for their work, and are becoming stronger as they move through the play.

For all the old media snobbery about Such Tweet Sorrow, it’s been a fascinating risk worth taking. And if audience engagement is a matrix of success, then they can be assured that they have done well. My only concern is who I’m going to follow on Twitter now.

Be Sociable, Share!