Such Tweet Sorrow
Such Tweet Sorrow is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet in tweets. During the period of five weeks (April 10, 2010 – May 12, 2010) six professional actors performed the play on Twitter and other web devices. The actors improvised around a prepared story grid and could interact with each other and react to followers, fans, real events and comments via Twitter. The play was a cooperation between the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Mudlark Production Company.
The story of Romeo and Juliet's love is taken to the 21st century and is set in an unknown town in Great Britain. The feud between the Montagues and the Capulets begins with a tragic car accident in 2000 where Susan Capulet, Juliet's mother, dies. The driver, Montague Sr, survives with heavy injuries. Mr Capulet, a successful property developer, was left with three children: Jess, Tybalt and Juliet. He remarried in 2002. Montague Sr, a landscape painter, still lives in the area with his wife and son. Ten years later, Juliet is the only child still living at home. Her older sister Jess, whose nickname 'Nurse' comes from nursing her younger siblings, lives and works as a trainee solicitor in a nearby town. Their brother Tybalt lives two hours away in a public school. He has been sent to boarding school at the age of 7 and has never settled in any of them ever since. Jess as the oldest tries to keep the family together and has close contact to her father and sister and does her best to communicate with her brother, too.
The story starts with Mr Capulet deciding to take his family to Australia for good. In the meantime, Jess, who is getting in shape for the London Marathon, convinced Juliet to join the online platform Twitter. On the other side of the town Mercutio, Romeo's best friend wakes up with a hangover and a missing mobile and tweets away the events of the night. As the 10th anniversary of the accident is nearing everybody is reminded and thinks about the events in the past in a different way. Juliet remembers her mother but is also thinking about her birthday coming up. Jess begins to feel depressed about their mother's death and feels that Montague Sr. should have been prosecuted for murder. Mercutio remembers the big fight where Montague Sr. was beat up by 'Crapulet'/Mr. Capulet and announces his hate on Twitter. He was too young to have known about the real events going on but he has grown so close to the Montagues that he knows on which side he belongs to. Romeo has not been convinced to join Twitter yet.
On the anniversary of Mrs Capulet's death the yearly mourning is disrupted by Tybalt getting expelled from school because of drug-dealing. Mercutio is announcing this day Montague Day as he thinks they should stand proud. As a result Montague Sr told him to keep his Twitter profile on the low. So he is tweeting about a girl he scored last night instead.
In the meantime, Laurence Friar, the local coffee shop owner, is tweeting inspirational messages and memories about Mrs Capulet. Tybalt's expulsion casts dark shadows over the family and ends with his father deciding that he won't be coming with them to Australia. Laurence Friar finds out about the family troubles of the Capulets and offers his help and his memories of their mother to all three children. Jess accepts his offer and visits him but his memories does not quite match up with her own especially Laurence's version of her mother's friendship to Montague Sr. Meanwhile, Juliet returns home very upset as somebody has written "MONTAGUE IS INNOCENT" on her PE shirt. Romeo has been persuaded to join [Twitter] and is supported by Laurence who also visits the Capulets at their house to network and bond with Tybalt and his father.
The next day Juliet returns from school in a happy mood, her friends have made CAPULET AND PROUD T-shirts and for that she tweets about her upcoming birthday party: Proud to be a Capulet – dying to be 16. Mercutio and Romeo are hanging out at Laurence's coffee shop with Montague Sr. as Tybalt arrives. Laurence can prevent them from fighting but the situation between the families is more tensed than ever. Mr. Capulet has a talk with Tybalt about his future and proposes that he could start working in the property business and look after himself when the others move to Australia. Tybalt is liking the idea of sorting himself out.
The next evening Mercutio gets into a funny tweet-flirt with an older woman, Jess, in a local pub after having visited a football match and making a fool out of himself, ranting in front of a TV camera. Laurence Friar also visited the football match, sponsoring a young player and calming down Tybalt, who has watched Mercutio on the screen. Later that night Romeo knocked Tybalt out with his first punch and Jess broke it up before it got worse.
As a result of yesterday's fight Romeo got grounded while Tybalt gets praised for fighting a Montague. Jess is helping her stepmother to sell her health products and discovers a painting of Montague showing her mother. At the same time Romeo listens to his father talking about love and he asks himself and his followers on Twitter: what is love? Juliet's followers discover that she writes her own songs and demand lyrics and uploads of her singing.
While being grounded Romeo spends the day playing Xbox and chatting with a female player named Rosaline on Xboxlive. Mercutio is starting a #freeromeo campaign on Twitter, Juliet is thinking about a theme for her birthday party and Laurence Friar is taking his time to plan his table tennis tournament.
Juliet has finally found a theme for her birthday party, a masked ball, and tweets away the news while Romeo still spends the day at home and develops feelings for the female player Rosaline. He confides with Mercutio later that day and finds him repelled by Romeo's use of the word 'relationship'.
Mercutio is still working on the #freeromeo campaign while romeo is getting more and more stressed out at home. Rosaline has abandoned him and is never to return. Tybalt spends the day at Laurence's smoking pot. Juliet's masked ball is in the making and Jess finds herself left alone with the task of organizing it. Juliet posts an open invitation on Facebook.
The day before the party: everybody is excited especially Juliet and Jess, who had asked Laurence to keep the party a drug-free zone. Romeo is still depressed about Rosaline ditching him and is cheered up by Mercutio who is planning to crash Juliet's party. Tybalt, who is suspecting them to crash, is posting threats for them on Twitter.
At Juliet's party, Tybalt and Laurence are useless as bouncers so crashers are inevitable. Mercutio and Romeo are having fun crashing and Romeo spots a cute girl in a pink mask. Juliet's date for the night gets off with another girl but she sees a boy in funny mask. Jess sees Romeo and Juliet snogging later that night. The party ends with Juliet going upstairs to her room and waiting for Romeo. After a few moments hesitating he runs upstairs.
Jess wakes up the next day with the house looking like a bomb-site and discovering Juliet in bed with Romeo. After advising her to get her lover out of the house before Tybalt wakes up she rushes off to the London marathon. Tybalt drags himself down to London to support his sister after having a quick look on Romeos tweets about a little girl he spent the night with. Mercutio discovers a change while hanging out with Romeo as he is not interested in fooling around as usually. After tweeting anonymously about last night Romeo and Juliet set up a date for the next morning and Juliet, still not knowing who Romeo truly is, goes to London to support Jess.
Jess finishes the marathon successfully and is supported by Tybalt and Laurence but not even congratulated by Juliet who spends the day at the house with her new lover. Romeo still hasn't told her that he is a Montague. Tybalt found out that Juliet lost her virginity on her birthday but still has not connected that to Romeo's romantic tweets yet.
The next day the pieces are slowly fitting together. Tybalt discovers that Romeo is flirting with his little sister and Mercutio begins to realize that he is losing Romeo to his new love. Laurence also discovers the new romance and approves thinking this would encourage the healing process between the two families. Jess, who was unaware of Juliet not knowing Romeo's identity, reveals the secret to Juliet. Romeo trying to confess discovers that she already knows and spends the evening apologizing and explaining. Juliet, astonished about the news, needs time to think.
Tybalt spends the next day with his father who is getting ready for Australia. He decides to put Tybalt in charge of the family interests in the UK with Laurence as mentor. Tybalt is thrilled and is also pleased that Juliet has stopped communicating with Romeo. Romeo spends the day with his family too, having a deep talk about love with his father. By the end of the day he thinks about letting Juliet go. Mercutio also gets in touch with his family, who sent him a very formal email. His wish to be a true Montague deepens and he tries to confide with Romeo only discovering that he had blocked him on Twitter.
Jess and Laurence arrange a meeting between the two lovers, Romeo and Juliet, in order for them to sort things out. After having spent a whole day offline and thinking, Juliet has discovered that her feeling for Romeo are stronger than she thought. Laurence also gets Tybalt to help him out with the tournament but also discovers Mercutio and him fighting all over Twitter. Tybalt is teasing Mercutio about Romeo abandoning his best friend. Mercutio is getting more and more frustrated about it. Juliet and Romeo spend a long time alone in Laurence's apartment.
Laurence's ping-pong tournament takes place with Tybalt winning all the way only getting defeated by Mercutio in the finals. His victory does not improve Mercutio's mood though. Romeo and Juliet spend the day with sexual adventures. Tybalt discovers that Juliet has blocked him on Twitter.
Juliet persuades Laurence to build a love shack for her and Romeo. Although Jess thinks this romance is moving too fast Laurence agrees. Juliet surprises Romeo with the den and they discover the Laurence is qualified to perform humanist weddings. They arrange a mock wedding on Twitter where Jess ignores the request to perform as a witness.
Mercutio discovers that somebody has hacked his Twitter account and even apologized to Tybalt who on the other hand does not even notice because he is angry about last nights result and the quality of dope Laurence has given him. He confronts Laurence only to be surprised by Jess who wanted to confide with Laurence about the last events. She finds him giving drugs to Tybalt instead and is outrageous. The Montague side of the events ten years ago are uncovered also revealing that Mrs. Capulet was in love with Montague Sr.. Romeo and Juliet sneak off to a hotel that night without telling anybody.
Juliet tells Jess that she is not moving to Australia and also married Romeo at the registry office yesterday – no joke. Laurence tells Tybalt that Romeo and Juliet have been meeting up at the coffee shop and Mercutio finds out about Juliet being Romeo's mystery girl. As a result Tybalt is out for Romeo's blood and Mercutio wants to beat up some Capulets at the night's football game. Romeo tries to calm everybody down, he wants no fight at all.
Everybody goes to the football match and Jess loses track of Tybalt after having been separated due to crowd troubles. Romeo gets lost too. Nobody knows what's going on. Mercutio finally shows up in an ambulance and later at the hospital. After joking around he curses all the Capulets and Montagues and dies.
The next day Romeo is laying low and tweets Mercutio with no reply. He also tweets Juliet that he is safe but not at Laurence's. As the day goes on his tweets to Mercutio grow more anxious. In the meanwhile news of Tybalt's death reach the Capulet house along with rumors that Romeo was the one who killed him. Juliet does not believe these accusations and is terrified that Romeo might be dead too. She also threatens to cut her wrists. Jess, who is worried about her hysteric reactions, agrees to meet up with Laurence, who still tweets that Tybalt's death was an accident, to sort things out.
Romeo realizes that Mercutio is dead and Juliet finally believes him being alive. Jess sneaks Juliet out of the house and brings her to Laurence's where Romeo has been hiding ever since. They decide that it is the best decision to get Romeo out of the country and that Juliet should not go with him.
Romeo is laying low in an unspecified European country and finds out that Laurence had let his mouth run away with him. Juliet finds out that Romeo really killed Tybalt. She confronts Romeo on Twitter but nothing is resolved.
Juliet reads the tweets of the night of Tybalt's death and realizes that he has been to blame. She apologizes to Romeo and announces herself as Mrs Montague. She begs Jess to let her move in rather than to having to move to Australia. Mr. Capulet storms off to Laurence's coffee shop and accuses him of helping his daughter to run away from home.
Jess persuades Juliet to go home with her and after Laurence's refusal to send him money Romeo gets some money together and returns to England.
Juliet is trying to attend Mercutio's funeral but is stopped by her father who also tried to hit her after finding out about the wedding between her and Romeo. Jess pulls her father away and escapes to her apartment in despair. Romeo tells Juliet he is making his way back to her and posted a poem about his dead friend.
Juliet is said to move to Australia with her stepmother on Wednesday, no arguments. Jess is still disappointed about her father and keeps the distance to the family. Laurence tries to help Juliet and gets chased away. After that he leaves some strange messages on his website about leaving the milk in his apartment while he was away. Romeo is beseeching Juliet not to go and constantly tries to get in touch with Laurence. After that he switches his phone off.
Juliet announces that she is getting settled with the idea of moving to Sydney. Jess is pleased to hear that and concentrates on her career plans. Laurence also encourages Juliet but also made some tweets about junction 10 which turns out to be a hotel he settles in later reminding Romeo of their meeting. Romeo's phone is still switched off. Juliet sneaks off to Laurence's apartment and sent a series of twitpics of the 'milk' she was drinking and tweets about her future together with Romeo. After that she passes out. Romeo turns on his phone finally and understands Juliet's tweets as suicide notes only to be assured by her seemingly dead body in Laurence's apartment. He takes some pills washed down with whiskey. Jess and Laurence tuned in too late to stop him. Juliet awakes with Romeo's dead body beside her. She ignores Jess's tweets and kills herself by cutting her wrists. Jess rushes off to Laurence's apartment and finds the two dead bodies. Laurence, too afraid to come home, drives around and is depressed about the consequences of his plan. Jess begs him to come back to help her understand the disaster.
Jess wakes up with a hangover and is supported by many of her followers on Twitter. Laurence finally decides to come home and advices a young hitchhiker on the way to return home. Jess notices a picture in the middle of the town, it is a painting of her mother by Montague with a note saying 'sorry'. Then a final message from Tybalt's account appears for her: I'm so sorry. Come home. Dad x.
Romeo is a 19 year old who takes every day as it comes. He wants to make the best out of everything he does and is enjoying his life at home as an only child. After passing all of his final exams at school he decided to take a year off and works part-time at a card-board factory. He does not seem to have many close friends besides Mercutio but is enjoying the moments with him to the fullest. He seems very quiet at first but is definitely an eye-catcher. Although Montague Sr never told him too he dislikes the Capulets for what they did to his family.
He is not the handsomest 19 year old but one of the most charming. He uses this talent to seduce girls and to get away with most of the things he does but if this doesn't work out he sure knows how to use his fists. He is an only child and his parents live in south France since he turned 18. They bought him an apartment in the city and he gets a decent allowance every month. After school he decided to take a year off like Romeo and spends most of the time with him and the Montagues. He is very loyal to them and wishes to be part of the family.
A shy gentle 15 year old girly girl who likes to stay at home and hang out with her sister Jess who is also her best friend. She is very innocent and seems to have little experience with anything to do with the real world. She likes singing and making music on her guitar other than that she is a typical teen and enjoys Twilight and Robert Pattinson. Her father is very strict and she is not allowed very much but her personality is set to obey most of the time and she enjoys being at home in her room. She doesn't seem to be very popular and doesn't have so many friends besides her sister. As she was still too young to know about the events going on the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues seems strange to her.
She is a 23 year old trainee solicitor at a corporate law firm. She is very driven and hardworking. She always has a project going on and is always taking on extra work. Currently she is training for the London marathon. Since their mother died she has been the mother for her younger siblings that's why they nicknamed her 'nurse'. She lives on her own and has a small apartment in a nearby town. She tries to keep the family together and keeps close contact to her sister and dad and her brother too. As the oldest she has the most memories of their mother and still blames Montague Sr. for her death.
At the age of seven his mother died, his dad remarried hastily and he was shipped off to boarding school. He has been angry at everybody in his family and also at life ever since. But most of all he is angry at Montague Sr. who he thinks is to blame for all this mess. Without him the accident would have never happened and his mother would still be alive. Other than that he portrays this anger within his behavior in school, where he is about to be expelled, and with everybody else in his way. The only place he seems to calm down is at Laurence's coffee shop. Laurence seems like a mentor to him but he also provides him with dope. If it was not for that Tybalt would have nowhere to go.
He is the 38 year old coffee/internet shop owner in town. He tries to do good and offers his help to the teenagers in town but he is also a local drug dealer and sells dope to them. He tries to help the community by supporting the young people and giving them a safe haven with his coffee shop to hang out and have fun. He grew up in this town and knows how it is to live in the rural area, he tries to give them a place to stay other than hanging out in the streets. He also supports the local disabled group and arranges gatherings for the local youth like his ping pong tournament. Back in the days he used to be friends with Montague Sr. until the accident. Nowadays he tries to loosen the tension between the two families and helps the young couple to sort things out.
The actors all performed on Twitter using small comments with 140 characters (tweets) to tell their followers what they were up to. Although other internet platforms, Facebook, Xboxlive, Audioboo, YouTube and WordPress were used too, Twitter as the main media was even more useful to perform as the people who were interested in seeing this event could just follow the characters or even just their favorite one. The actors improvised around a prepared story grid and were free to interpret the events in their own way using their own words. The feature that came out of this was a live story-telling situation which could definitely also be based on real events. Followers who tuned in later could have always had the impression they're following somebody's real life story. This resembles Orson Welles War of the Worlds being read on the radio back in the days. The result was the same. The other media represented, such as YouTube, were used to simply support the tweets in a more striking way. Juliets video posts on YouTube had the function of showing her as a real person with a real voice and also to simply describe her character and her environment. The fact that Romeo was really found playing Call of Duty on Xboxlive made the realness of the character even more profound as you could actually join him in his game. The variety of the media usage made it easier for the followers to connect to the characters and certainly displayed the variety of streams used by the youth of the 21st century. This made it possible to take the story of Romeo and Juliet to modern times and to get a younger generation more interested in Shakespearean literature.
- Such Tweet Sorrow at the Royal Shakespeare Company