Martin Baum decides that Shakespeare would read better as: ‘To be or not to be, innit’

By Candice Krieger, May 2, 2008

Satirist Martin Baum is concerned that schoolchildren are daunted by William Shakespeare’s works. So — gadzooks! — he has re-written the playwright’s collection entirely in “yoof-speak”, in the hope that the slang will appeal to a younger audience.

Mr Baum’s book, To Be or Not To Be, Innit, includes Macbeff and Two Geezas of Verona, among 15 abridged versions of Shakespeare’s work. It is an Amazon bestseller, and chat-show hosts Graham Norton and Paul O’Grady have requested copies of the book for their shows.

Mr Baum, 48, tells People: “I am passionate about English and literature, but have found that a lot of young people are daunted by Shakespeare’s language. Text-speak and street slang has become the norm for a lot of young people. I am hoping the book will draw kids in to Shakespeare.”

Other titles in his collection include Romeo and his Fit Bitch Jules, Much Ado into Sod All and As You Likes It. “I kept the facts but re-wrote them in street-style.”

Does this not encourage street slang and bad language? “No, it makes an entertaining read and holds kids’ attention,” he says. “It helps them to stick with the story all the way through.” He points out that the Royal Shakespeare Company’s director of education, Jacqui O’Hanlon, has welcomed the book. “If it’s good enough for her, then it’s good enough for me.”

Mr Baum admits he did not expect the book to take off as it has. “I can not fathom it. It is really quite humbling and scary.”

Mr Baum, of Dorset, who writes for several satirical shows including the News Revue at the Canal Café, London, is considering publishing his next “yoof-speak” on the work of Charles Dickens.

To Be or Not To Be, Innit: A Yoof-Speak Guide to Shakespeare is published by Bertram Books

Last updated: 3:46pm, May 13 2008