Last night, I attended the opening night of Romeo and Juliet, an SL production stage managed by Harvey Crabsticks, and performed by Canary Beck, Amethyst Dovgal, Cloe Nyn and Belice Benoir. This wasn’t the first production of Shakespeare I’ve seen in SL, the first being a performance of The Tempest I attended many years ago. That was a traditional (if such a word can be applied in the metaverse) rendition of the play, albeit performed on a huge set by a large cast. Romeo and Juliet was a much more scaled down affair put on in a theatre build, and an interpretation performed through music and dance.
What really impressed me about this show was the thought that had gone into using cohesively the many elements we are all familiar with in SL: animations, objects, text, music and voice. Individual scenes were introduced by a narrator in voice over stream, then performed to music through well-chosen pose-ball animations on a stage decorated with just the right amount of furniture. Whilst the dance took place, excerpts from the original text were scrolled by a line reader through local chat (it’s always a great pleasure for me to see the good old line reader – one of the oldest SL performance tools (it even pre-dates voice) – still in action).
The whole thing was a marvel of precision and synchronicity, with more or less every element flawlessly happening at just the right moment. I can’t begin to imagine the complexity of all the scenery, lighting and costume changes – not to mention the cuing up of all the individual dances and audio files – under pressure of the time available to the team. This was a performance by people who clearly love using SL as a form of expression and who wanted to bring Shakespeare to this medium.
These are polarised times, with people arranging themselves seemingly more and more at the opposite ends of the many debates held by society; I was struck once again by the unending relevance of this story and by sadness that its message is still largely unheeded. My absorption in these thoughts is a testament to the success of the team behind Romeo and Juliet in immersing its audience in this tale.
Additional performances commence in a couple of weeks, the details of which will, not doubt, be revealed on the Basilique Blog. My wish list for tweaks would include silencing the various scripts that chatter (lighting being altered, furniture being rezzed, tip jars expressing their gratitude) if at all possible, since this interfered a little with the play text. I’d also get rid of the bunch of TVs placed in front of the stage during scene changes: my habit of focusing on these meant that each time the curtains reopened and these were dropped below the floor I had to walk my crosshairs back into the theatre again. But these are small issues and didn’t detract from the overall effect. A very enjoyable, immersive evening was had by all – the theatre was at capacity for this opening performance – and you would be well advised to set aside 90 minutes for this if you are able to.