Geraldine has run her own theatre company Jericho Productions, worked for Battersea Arts Centre and the British Council. In 2009 she joined the Royal Shakespeare Company to work as the Director of Events and Exhibitions. She is responsible for taking the work of the company outside the theatre and to the public, and Such Tweet Sorrow, a professional production of Romeo and Juliet on Twitter, is the latest example.
As Such Tweet Sorrow draws to a close, how do you measure its success?
The purpose was to expand in a new form, to try new ways of working, and to reach audiences who can’t come to Stratford. We said at the beginning it wasn’t about the number of followers, but about the level of interaction from the followers. I loved that before Juliet’s birthday, when she was having a Masked party, people made their own masks and uploaded them onto Twitter. That for me is one of the real measures of success. It’s a longer-term hope that people will come and see productions, but it’s more about changing perceptions of the brand and making Shakespeare feel less remote.
There has been criticism over the modern language. Why was this chosen?
The project was about doing a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet for Twitter. If we wanted to do Romeo and Juliet in its original language online, we might not have used Twitter as a platform. It was definitely about the contemporary, the improvising, the experimental. The actors were improvising a lot of the tweets and were free to use their own language. Juliet is a nineteen-year old performer, for example, so a lot of it is in her idiom. I think that’s a part of the energy of the piece, it’s part of what works about it.
In Such Tweet Sorrow Mercutio is stabbed at a football match. How much does the adapted plot relate to contemporary concerns?
It wasn’t about this is a world where stabbings are happening on the street, but it was about this is today’s world and they will be drinking, they might be taking drugs, they will be having sex. So the setting is contemporary, it’s not a kind of political choice. I was glued to Twitter with the death of Mercutio, it sounds weird but I found that totally compelling. We were thinking a lot about how to handle the deaths because we really wanted to make sure that we protected young followers. A friend of mine lost their son sadly when he was seventeen, and his friends had celebrated his life very much through Facebook and YouTube. When I was at school we would have made scrapbooks or graffiti, but the internet is definitely how young people are communicating and articulating their feelings.
What early theatrical experience can you remember having an impact on you?
My family aren’t theatregoers. Reading was my escape when I was young and was how I discovered theatre. I remember being sixteen and I saw an all black Macbeth at Haymarket in the Studio, it was amazing and had a real influence on me. I’m sure it was because of the race politics and the fact that it was an all Black cast. In the eighties when there were race riots it was a powerful political statement in itself. I think theatre was definitely white dominated and it still is now. That was a very exciting thing to see, but sadly I suspect sadly we still might find that powerful.
If Shakespeare was alive now would he be tweeting? If so, what would he tweet?
He would be tweeting, without a shadow of a doubt. I think he would have tweeted Romeo and Juliet on Twitter. I’m sure he’d be experimenting and trying things to reach broad audiences just as he was when he wrote the plays originally.