With 23 April 2016 being the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare's death, a group of actors including Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi have come together to help the audience understand every line of the playwright's work. The actors are featuring on the Heuristic Shakespeare app, which launched in London on 22 April. The app aims to bring the writer'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's an enjoyable experience, 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," said McKellen.
The app, launched by The Lord of the Rings star McKellen and the film director Richard Loncraine, is designed to be used on an iPad. The app user is presented with a scrolling text of the full version of a Shakespeare play. A window shows each member of the cast above the script, and the actor then reads the lines directly into the camera. The first play the app covered is The Tempest.
"We did some research and we found that by having not just the text scrolling underneath on the app, 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," said Loncraine.
All of Shakespeare's 37 plays will eventually be featured on the iPad app. It 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," said McKellen.