As Britain marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death, a group of actors including Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi have come together to try and help the audience better understand his work.
They’re doing this through the Heuristic Shakespeare app, which they hope will bring the famous Bard’s words to a wider audience.
“I’ve always felt, since I had to read Shakespeare at school, that wasn’t the way to be introduced to Shakespeare or to enjoy him. Shakespeare is an enjoyable experience, but it only really comes alive and you only really understand him if you see the plays on the stage and you are in the same space as the actors who are speaking the lines,” explains Ian McKellen.
Designed to be used on an iPad, the app was launched by McKellen and film director Richard Loncraine. The user is presented with a scrolling text of the full version of a Shakespeare play with the actor reading the lines directly into the camera.
“We did some research and we found that by having not just the text scrolling underneath on the app, but on the top of the screen – I can show you – you can see an actor actually talking and he’s always looking at you. He doesn’t look at the other actors, he doesn’t walk offstage, he doesn’t swordfight. He simply speaks the text to you,” explains Loncraine.
All of Shakespeare’s 37 plays will eventually be available on the app, which will include extra features such as access to detailed notes, character maps and a scrollable timeline of Shakespeare’s life.
“Shakespeare’s not a pageant. It’s not something from the past. He’s still relevant because he had this unique genius for understanding us all. It’s almost as if Shakespeare invented human beings,” concludes Ian McKellen.