Such Tweet Sorrow II

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Image shared on Flickr via a creative commons license by Stephan Geyer.

This may start off sounding like criticism, but it isn’t, more like a lack of an applicable critical language.

At the point I started writing this blog post, in my eyes #suchtweet had lost a lot of its artistic and realistic credibility – the characters were tweeting at a party, about secret things, to each other, about each other, knowing that everyone can see them. There was earlier, hideous, product placement (more later), and the language had turned from the irritatingly truncated to an odd kind of a poesy, apart from Juliet, who got even more screechy

It was really unrealistic.

(24) Twitter / @hannahnicklin/Such_tweet

But so’s Hollyoaks, lots of people watch that.

There’s a danger my criticism becomes irrelevant, and that’s the point at which it’s not about language skill, understanding of the form, theatre or performance. It’s just a story everyone knows, threading into people’s lives.

Such Tweet Sorrow is no longer about the quality or nature of storytelling (art), this is about the power of familiar stories and love.

People love, love. They love the idea that they might give up so much for something so beautiful. They love the idea of love at first sight, and that someone as simple, or normal as they might be fated for someone. And they love to see this in a place they visit, an intimate and constructed space that they go to each day – it’s more inside them (I believe that as we reconstruct ourselves in these online spaces we build others into us), their lives, than film or theatre ever is.

We go through our lives feeling not enough, half of what we should be, the stories shilled by marketing, capitalism and the gaps left by the loss of what the post-modernists termed grand narratives (religion, class, the state) make sure of that. To want to believe in completion is understandable.

Maybe that’s what Romeo and Juliet should be about.

Is there a point at which realism isn’t relevant? Could #suchtweet be considered a piece of expressionism? The way people often act or talk on stage is heightened, why does #suchtweet have to imitate life? Or do the majority of Twitter users use Twitter like a text messaging service – do they tweet about the people they pull, knowing their family see each tweet? Perhaps they do. None of the 600 or so I follow, but by the fact their chosen by one person, not many, they can’t be seen as a representative bunch.

There are still some points on which I feel wholly vindicated in criticising #suchtweet, the lack of response and engagement with anything apart from positive critique is a shame, especially considering their interactive intentions. The biggest want has been for a forum, a place where discussion about the project can happen – look at the engagement with my previous blog post for example – if you involve people in the experiment so deeply, I think it’s right to involve them in the evaluation.

The manner of tweeting before the party scene and morning after had got a lot better – @Jess_Nurse had made considerable improvement in the subtlety of her delivery (I liked this example particularly). I enjoyed the mask trying-on session via tweetphoto, and although @Romeo_Mo’s sudden switch from playa to emo jarred with his previous behaviour, it did feel like a response to some of the criticism, and so forgiveable.

The product placement, however, is not.

Because of how intimate the experience is, because of the way the experiment sets itself up, it is shameful, dangerous, offensive that they would insert advertising into that space. When people have opened up. When people have made themselves vulnerable in two ways – in the way we do when we reconstruct our selves in online spaces, and in the way we suspend our disbelief and trust these actors as real people – to place advertising there, breaks trust.

I’ve taken the #suchtweet characters out of my feed now. I have listed them, and to be honest I think that would have been the best approach from the start. Whether or not it’s chosen to be so, #suchtweet is not for me, or most of the arts folk I’ve spoken to so far. That doesn’t make it bad, art is not a synonym for ‘good’, I do however think it could have been more artistically managed, and still have drawn its current audience, and more.

Should I still be looking at it critically? The fact that the piece is in association with theatre companies tells me ‘yes’, the content and reactions from the fan base ‘no’. What do you think?

To see my previous thoughts on Such Tweet Sorrow, click here.

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10 Responses to “Such Tweet Sorrow II”

  1. thejives April 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm #

    Ha ha. You’re quitting on it at the balcony scene?

    If that’s all anyone saw of a stage performance they’d think it was unartistic and stilted as well. “It is the east and Juliet is the sun.”

    Anyway, cya. I’ll miss your tweets in the hashtag.

  2. Hannah Nicklin April 25, 2010 at 12:34 am #

    Hi thejives, thanks for your comment.

    I haven’t ‘quit’, just relegated the characters to a list. And it wasn’t on the ‘balcony scenes’, it was on a culmination of two weeks worth of experience. I will still be following the story, I hope I’m over-reacting.

    I don’t believe that within context (as I am taking #suchtweet) anyone seeing the stage performance version of the scene would find it inartistic and stilted, I think they would find it expressing sentiments within its form – the form allowing for suspension of disbelief, time and space, not broken by any other formal constraints.

    The balcony scene here is broken by logical constraints if it pretends to realism, which some of it has. If it is not intentionally so, that’s fine, but the confusion is disruptive.

  3. David Bolton (@frogfall) April 25, 2010 at 3:40 pm #

    Stage drama, radio drama, and screen drama have their own individual conventions, so it’s reasonable to expect that twitter drama will have conventions of its own. However, “twitter drama” is so new that those conventions haven’t had time to evolve. This is fine, as the whole “such tweet” project its an experiment.

    You’ve already hit on some of the problems. Characters using tweets like texts/DMs (we have to believe that “third party” characters don’t see them); characters tweeting to each other whilst in the same room (again we see them, but those characters “not present” can’t); characters tweeting their “inner voice” to the audience, which no other character sees.

    Interestingly, the “inner voice” aspect of tweets does make twitter drama lean more towards the radio model than the stage model – unless we think of them as restoration-style “asides”, or as “micro monologues”.

    However, the big problem comes in how to portray dialogue between two or more characters, whilst excluding other characters from the information being tweeted. In other forms of drama that is easily achieved by only having certain characters physically present in a “scene”. The audience then accepts that absent characters just do not hear the conversation.

    What we have to deal with is a drama that is not only conducted in one long scene – where all characters are present at all times (albeit virtually) – but where all can see/hear what all other characters are saying to each other. I’m quite a sure a drama could be written around such a premise – but it certainly wouldn’t be like this one.

    Actually, the choice of Romeo & Juliet for this experiment is important one. Not only is it one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, but the plot details are well known to many people as it is also a regular school text. Arguably, if they had adapted a lesser known drama, then (a) the audience would have been much smaller, and (b) people would not be able to rely on background knowledge of the plot to allow them to cut through the confusion caused by the “convention problems”. Hence, we shouldn’t judge the success or failure of “twitter drama” based on this experiment alone (although I sure many people will).

    The “product placement” fiasco is an interesting one – as it essentially turns the whole piece into an advert. Product placement in television drama has a long and rather undistinguished history. Regulations have existed in the UK, to prevent its use, for a long time – although advertising firms have often been able to get around the rules by various means. Unfortunately, the rules are now going to be relaxed – so goodness knows how UK TV will develop. The future certainly doesn’t look good.

    Everyone knows that performances have to be paid for somehow (whether by ticket sales, tax-derived subsidies, commercial sponsorship, or a mixture of all three). However – as has been shown, turning a character’s dialogue tweet into an advert just ruins the drama.

    Of course the medium itself doesn’t lend itself to advertising – as any tweets that push a product, or brand, feel like spam. In theatre, or at concerts, the signs of sponsorship are limited to banner adverts in the building, and notices in the printed programme. I’m sure that if, in this case, the sponsorship notices had been limited to the Such Tweet Sorrow website, then nobody would have minded. Sponsor adverts can also be visible on any photo site, video clip site, or audio clip site that the characters might link to – without being too obtrusive, or distracting. But product placement within the dialogue? Nooooooo!

  4. Hannah Nicklin April 25, 2010 at 6:18 pm #

    @frogfall, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment! All salient points.

  5. BenVoli0 April 26, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Just for the record I too have unfollowed as of Friday ‘party’ night, for two reasons: a) the product placement although it gave an opportunity for some last tweets from me, and b) the increase in blocking by the ‘official cast’ which made it very difficult to follow what was going on without resorting to using other accounts.

    I hope there will be future attempts at this form and that their audiences will be treated with more respect in this bi-directional medium. If audience members are ‘heckling’ to the annoyance of the performers, management or other followers there are surely more subtle ways of requesting that they desist?

    ‘Ben’

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