Today we publish Romeo and Juliet, and it’s in our MFFEV5 format, so you can read it online ( https://players-shakespeare.com/mffe-version-5-romeo-and-juliet-online/?page=s|A1S1.html%3Ff ) as a standard text, in ‘Parts and Cues’ format, or in ‘Highlit Text’. If you’re unfamiliar with our MFFEV5 format, MFFEV5 – An exciting new resource for Shakespeare Lovers will give you an overview of what it can do, and Preparing Malvolio for performance with MFFEV5 Parts and Cues will give you an idea of how to use it in practice.
I found editing the play a revelation – I’ve never been involved in a production, though of course I’ve seen the Zefirelli film, and the Baz Luhrmann’s one, but somehow watching a film doesn’t sink in the way that working seriously on the play, by performing, editing, or directing, does.
I came to the conclusion that the play is misnamed. As in the closing lines, it should be ‘Juliet and her Romeo‘. Juliet strikes me as a really smart cookie, particularly for a 14-year-old, with some magnificent speeches showing her sensitivity and maturity. I’m afraid Romeo struck me as suffering from a surfeit of hormones, leading to too much aggression, his witty chat with his pals feels like showing off, and he has a strong desire to get inside some female pants (or knickers as we call them in the UK, or love, as Romeo calls it) – pretty much anyone’s knickers – Rosaline; Juliet; maybe the Nurse would do. The typical adolescent male, I guess.
As part of our editing process, I proof-read the play with my partner twice. (We read alternative speeches, starting the play with a different reader so we each have read all the speeches.) We were both delighted by the play, with a slight preference for the first half where mostly it is sweetness and light. But read it for yourselves!
We’re going to run a play-reading of Romeo and Juliet on Sunday, 13th December, and 16 readers plan to come to the play-reading! There are around 28 characters so that means our software has to allocate parts (an average of 2 per reader) to even up the size of the parts. The software doesn’t do a good job of that – there’s only around 10 principal parts (Romeo, Juliet, Friar Laurence, Malvolio, Capulet, Nurse, Benvolio, Capulet’s Wife, Paris, and Tybalt) so if you’ve got 16 readers, there aren’t enough parts to go round, the smaller parts barely have 50 lines to read.
To make sure that you can run a play-reading that works for most readers, we’ve prepared castings for 8, 9, and ten readers. If you invite 10 people to a reading, then, if you get one or two last minute cancellations, you can still run a reading of the play. Each reader selects the roles he’s going to play from the CloudReader Configuration page (Click on the cogwheel in the top right-hand corner) You’ll also see castings for 14, 15, and 16 readers. This is for our internal play-reading. We plan to have 16 readers, but can cope if two don’t turn up on the day.
With the launch of MFFEV5, what we do here in Edinburgh becomes more visible to the rest of the world than previously. For example, if you look at the MFFEV5 menu, you’ll see that ‘A Midummer Night’s Dream’ is also available online, though it’s not yet published. We’ve found it’s much easier to proof-read plays online, whilst we correct them in our internal format, so this version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, so I’d only look at that play if you fancy doing some proof-reading. We’ll announce when it’s formally published.
We’ve got some more exciting stuff to announce, but that will have to wait until the New Year, and the beginning of the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
In the mean time, keep playing – and enjoying – Shakespeare.
Don’t forget – for feedback on the MFFEV5, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
See more about Parts and Cues on our Playreading Page.