Brevity is the soul of (T)wit(ter)……

……… as Shakespeare so very nearly put it in Hamlet. How appropriate!

I never really anticipated that being cast as Bottom in the RSC’s A Play For The Nation project would have so many repercussions beyond the stage. Yet last week I found myself on TV and on the radio both for the first time and I have started a full scale electronic blog. Now, horror of horrors, I’ve opened a Twitter account! The last may not seem all that dramatic but believe you me in my world it is. Rather like mobile phones, like podcasts, like Facebook, like LinkedIn, like tablet computers I was determined not to let the little blue bird into my life. And now look at me! After just four days and more than 70 tweets, not to mention engaging with retweets (sorry, RTs), favourites, lists, @s and #s, I’m a shameless user.……

I knew about Twitter, of course, but had steadfastly refused to engage wit


h it. That’s a bit of a dogmatic attitude for someone who’s interested in language and how it works but it just wasn’t for me – or so I thought. However, when I first saw the RSC’s website for the Dream project last week I suddenly started to get what Twitter was really about. Before I’d assumed that it was just for gathering snippets of personal news and engaging in idle even banal banter. Now I’ve belatedly realised it’s about the conversation rather than the message; connecting up with like-minded people to ‘share and enjoy’ (apologies to Douglas Adams). In this particular instance I’ve been able to get in touch with other people’s Bottoms (sorry), compare notes, share thoughts and generally feel part of a special – a very special – community. So I’m glad I took the plunge and signed up last Thursday. By the end of day one I had several followers (always good for the ego) and was following several back. Unlike Facebook some followers aren’t even people I know although one touching base was an ex-student of mine and it’s been good to find out what he’s been up to – literally up to as he’s now a pilot.

Of course as with any new undertaking there was a bit of a learning curve to undertake. I’ve always held that the best way to learn is by doing but I also think it helps to have a task(s) to focus the mind. I’m sure we am dram types learn more by standing up and trying out a scene than we do by simply reading the text – important though that is. So when I saw that a challenge had been posted on @RSCdream2016 to come up with some Dream poems during Friday I thought this would be an ideal way to get to grips with the Twittersphere. It hadn’t occurred to me that this meant writing something that was only 140 characters or less – quite a feat for someone as wordy as I have a tendency to be (see, I could have just written “as wordy as me” there). However, it was also a chance to see if all those formal précis lessons back at school would bear fruit. So nothing daunted and seeing that the theme set was “Donkeys” I came up with this little nugget:

ASSuming we’re all pASSionate ambASSadors
Let’s ASSert we’ll not make jackASSES of ourselves
AS(s)piring to be the clASSiest act
#dream2016 (136 characters)

136 characters (the hashtag counts – who knew? – I certainly didn’t) got me in at just under the 140 allowed. But was it really a poem?

I then wondered if I could squeeze 140 characters into a more traditional poetic form. Sonnets, odes and ballads were obviously out though a haiku would be possible. Indeed my favourite entry of the day was this gem from Fiona Galloway (Bradford’s Snout):

To be a donkey
Or not to be a donkey
Rather be an ass
#dream2016 (63 characters)

Somehow given the comic nature of Bottom and the mechanicals a limerick would seem to be ideal. Could it fit the constraints though? With a lot of squeezing, abbreviation and manipulation, yes it could:

Tower actors chasing a dream
Formed a remarkable team
5 others + Bottom
We found out we’d got ‘em
So entered the comp -what a scream
#dream2016 (138 characters)

So that was it, I was officially hooked and in order to upskill quickly I decided to set myself the challenge of introducing each of the Tower Dreamteam to the Twitter followers – mine/Tower’s/the RSCs – via this format. I’d make a world record attempt (notice the Bottomish delusions of grandeur) at writing and posting a short poem at the rate of one every half hour. Despite some very dodgy scansion, awkward syntax and erratic punctuation, five hours later I had posted a cycle of nine Twittericks – a new poetic form I’d inadvertently invented. I also had a resultant host of incoming email and notifications about them. Best of all I’d given myself a thorough grounding in Twitter basics and raised Tower’s profile in the project just that little bit higher.

If you haven’t found the poems yet via Twitter or seen the odd couple that I’ve leaked onto the teams’ Facebook pages, then fear not; they’ll be appearing in this blog soon. To ensure you don’t miss them please click on the sidebar

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Brevity is the soul of (T)wit(ter)……