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Bottled broadband brings Macbeth to life

qStudying Shakespeare has never been so easy or as exciting thanks to a CD movie with on-screen script, links and a special website. Jack Kenny reports.

The 4Learning version of Macbeth is one of the best educational presentations of a Shakespeare play I have seen. The production, directed by Michael Bogdanov, is excellent. Set in the present day, it plays out against a background like that of Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. Soldiers, ruined factories, canals, tunnels, destroyed churches - the detritus of war gives the whole thing a resonance and vitality that will appeal to many disaffected students.

Sean Pertwee and Greta Scacchi play the main characters without the declamatory Shakespeare style - a barrier to many. The only criticism is that the special effects supporting the apparitions might invite mild derision from some.

The production, which was aired during the autumn term on Channel 4, annoyed some purists because it is edited down and has a modern setting. That will be a plus for many pupils, however. Most of the actors will be familiar and some viewing time will be taken up with working out which television series they have appeared in. But this is not just a rcording, it is a complete presentation. With interactive whiteboards becoming more common, teachers have to work out how software like this will be used. Is it for an individual communing with their PC or is it for group use? In this case, it could be both.

The whole presentation is full-screen, full-motion and is contained on two conventional CD-Roms. It is what 4Learning calls TV-Rom. By compressing the file containing the film they can get it on to two conventional CDs. There is some loss of image quality but it is more than acceptable, especially when you think of what you gain - much better than video because you can locate sections with ease, and compare them with the text and extra resources on the CD and on the 4Learning site This is a good example of the kind of material that could be available once broadband lines penetrate every school. However, that could be years away. Don't wait. This is bottled broadband you can use as soon as you can get your hands on it.

Macbeth from 4LearningPrice: pound;47, with additional disks costing pound;11.75 for a 133 PC with 32 mb. Screen should be set to 800*600. Tel: 01926 436444Email:

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