Thursday, 28 February 2008

SL Shakespeare

Shakespeare becomes all things, yet for ever remaining himself.
Coleridge, Biographia Literaria

Persephone IM'd from the Globe Theatre to say she was catching the Second Life premiere of Hamlet, just as I was reading Rik Riel's post on the event in New World Notes. So I joined her and we watched.

Persephone could only watch, for voice failed to work and hence she heard aught but the sound of cameras clicking; I heard the lines quite distinctly - a mixture of accents and acting talents. I attend productions for the scenic design, and not for the quality of the singing or acting, which in SL is closer to posing, for we are masked altimes and can neither quiver a lip nor bat an eyelash, let alone recoil in horror from the apparation of a ghost. We lack spotlights to direct the audience's attention, so the speaking actor must move in an exaggerated way to identify himself. Francisco -or was it Bernardo - seemed stuck in a distracting stance, upstaging the gentler Marcellus.
The costumes were exquisite, the faces of the actors realistic and well consider'd. Clearly this has been the labour of many, but company founder and producer Ina Centaur deserved the applause she received.
The show website tells us the performers were bots - I can not be sure if this means they were scripted avatars, or replicated avatars of some fashion, but I will look forward to where the technology will take this talented group.
Finally, was it Shakespeare, or, was it Theatre? That is a more difficult Matter to decide. I saw the Merchant of Venice at the Globe Bankside in London last September: simple sets and staging will concentrate the attention of the audience to the performer and the lines. This first SL performance was an experiment, to be sure, an effort, an oeuvre, and impressive for the amount of energy and attention it has been lent by its producers. But we are still some ways from a truly compelling production in Second Life.

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