Are Shakespeare multimedia packages the hottest thing to galvanise secondary English lessons or just the baseless fabric of a vision? Jack Kenny and Sue Lambert enjoy new takes on the old master.
The back of the review package says "The play is linked to a complete video performance," but inside an errata slip says that the full performance of the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) linked to the text is available in audio only. This was, of course, a major disappointment. There is, however, much more to this package. The contents screen offers you a choice of an introduction, the text of the play itself, various summaries and commentaries, essays and, more interestingly, the clips gallery and karaoke section.
The introduction consists of a commentary illustrated with various stills and pictures relating to the play through the decades. Most of the commentaries, summaries and essays are fairly dull in appearance and seem little more than an electronic study aid.
The picture gallery provides a wide range of interesting background study. The clips gallery is more promising, enabling you to see, albeit on a frustratingly small section of the screen, scenes from three film versions - Polanski's, Orson Welles's and Kurosawa's Throne of Blood.
The karaoke option is fun, enabling you to choose a part to read yourself, although, irritatingly, only two scenes are available.
Despite its limitations, for school pupils the most useful section of the CD is the audio version of the play which gives the opportunity to listen to professional readings of Shakespeare. The absence of visuals might actually make them concentrate on the language more. This section can be useful in preparing readings, for example, or when doing a close study of a speech or scene. The explanatory notes are useful for independent study.
On the whole, though, for secondary pupils this dry-looking package will not motivate or encourage the unenthusiastic. SL Sue Lambert teaches English at Bentley Wood School, north London. Jack Kenny is an advisor for information technology with Hertfordshire IT Services