Posted 03 April 2013 - 04:51 PM
I lent a colleague a film version of a play recently and she commented on bits being interspersed with modern english, i confirmed it was all shakespeare and that they're are words and phrases that come straight from the plays and are in every day use but that people don't realise are shakespeare. She was surprised, i think she thought anything comprehensible couldn't possibly be authentic.
Posted 05 May 2013 - 08:20 AM
Jonathan Slinger showed humor and malice when he was mad, and the "get thee to a nunnery" was ferocious. I liked the moment when he accidently broke the jaw off Yorick's skull and then begrudgingly tossed it to an audience member. His delivery however was bogged down by extenuating the words, especially "All...is...not...well".
The performances I liked were Charlotte Cornwell as a majestic Gertrude, Greg Hicks' touching performance as the ghost, Robin Soans' Polonius, and Alex Waldmann was charming as ever as Horatio.
Is it me or is Greg Hicks just being Greg Hicks. As much as I enjoyed him in the Winters Tale, he seems to be giving the same performance in Julius Caesar, King Lear and now as Claudius, and I thought he lacked presence in this.
Pippa Nixon was an obedient and shy Ophelia, and I enjoyed her madness scene, but I thought she held back. Not that I was expecting the Bastard, or Rosalind for that matter, but I warmed to Mariah Gale more than Pippa.
David Farr's production is chock full of ideas, most of which I thought did not gel well. Apart from foreshadowing the duel there was no reason why the play needed to be set in a run down fencing hall. I liked the stripping away of the floor boards and Ophelia's grave, but there was no reason to keep a backdrop of a misty moor after the funeral.
Basically there were some good moments but there isn't anything really special about the production
OT, but there is a new Arden Shakespeare book being sold at the RSC called A Year of Shakespeare: Re-living the World Shakespeare Festival. A lot of it includes reviews of the productions involved, RSC, Globe Theatre, NT and so on. The Troilus and Cressida review is worth a giggle.
"Let us plunge down the postmodern rabbit hole of having White-Actors-As-'Trojans'-As-White-Actors-As-Ersatz-Native-Americans". The Wooster Group said in post-talk that they chose the accent when looking at the council scene in 2.2, where they were trying to get beyond the difficulty of the speeches to something "more naive" and "simple", less pretentious. Mark Ravenhill meanwhile insisted in producing something "inconsistent in tone, unreliable in information and driven by contradiction (so that) maybe we can create the realistic theatre that Shakespeare was looking for"
Posted 28 May 2013 - 10:52 PM
That said, a good Hamlet. Intellectual. By that I mean someone had thought out everything so stuff was placed and foreshadowed, not just the swords. The fencing thing got over the usually insurmountable need in a modern dress production for a sword at the beginning when they 'swear' on it. And was well used I thought throughout. Nice idea to have Ophelia clothed when mad ( no spoilers from me!) but her part was messed about with a bit. I thought Pippa Nixon was very good though with what she was given. I loved the faux Meryl Streep that Charlotte Cornwell was channelling as Gertrude. I l o v e d Greg Hicks's performance. Loved it. Alex Waldman v good Horatio, difficult part I think. Nice support all round. Hamlet: I dunno. I'm giving a solid B+ for effort but as the play went on I felt that JS fell back upon his well honed skills. Don't get me wrong, he is as well honed as any but he lost the vulnerability he started with. Ok, he didn't make me cry.
Could say more but not many have seen it so will hold off.
Def recommend. If you can get tix, was full tonight.
Posted 28 May 2013 - 11:58 PM
At the Tennant Hamlet, during Ophelia’s funeral, when Tennant was watching on one of the jutty bits for a good five/ten minutes, he was right next to my mum’s seat. She said she could smell him and almost touch him. I still don’t think she’s recovered.
Posted 29 May 2013 - 11:27 PM
I was at the same seat. I remember he pushed the rucksack a little further than he should and put out his hand to grab it (I might not have been paying as much attention to the play as I should at that point).
Posted 07 June 2013 - 10:55 PM
For a Friday night it was quite a small crowd: the top section hadn't been sold at all, the middle section had big gaps and there were some empties in the stalls, too. At least it reduced the queues for the loos.
It's a pretty straightforward production. It's very easy to follow plot-wise if you don't know the play: for various reasons we ended up going in two shifts, so my younger who'd not seen Hamlet before went last Saturday and appeared not to miss much. The performances are at worst solid, and Greg Hicks' Claudius and Pippa Nixon's Ophelia are really, really good. Hicks captures the ambiguous mixture of scheming and uxoriousness, and Nixon is touching with a core of steel. It's mostly well spoken. The set is a slightly awkward mix of thrust and some use of the old proscenium, which means it gets very cramped at the back of the stage in some scenes, but mostly works well. There's a bit of business with Fortinbras' army and removing the floor of the stage which takes forever, but mostly it's unobtrusive.
There are two main problems. One is that it's very slow, and therefore rushes in other places. It went up on time at 7, and the interval didn't arrive until five to nine, by which time we'd just finished The Mousetrap. The last RSC Hamlet, Doran/Tennant, waited until "and if he dies he goes to heaven", and I'm sure didn't take nearly two hours to get there. Several key scenes in the second half, particularly Claudius' convincing of Laertes to join him in his scheme to kill Hamlet, therefore felt gabbled to catch up on time. Perhaps you could retrospectively make a case that rushing through Ophelia's funeral captures the maimed rites and shortened obsequies, but I suspect that's over-interpreting; it was actually just a bit rushed.
The second problem, which probably causes the first, is Jonathan Slinger. Sorry, but Hamlet with a bald patch isn't working for me, and he's too self-consious in the soliloquies. Yes, I can see that he's trying to avoid the big set pieces coming over as big set pieces, but the result is that they're fragmented and worked over, which makes them both slow and difficult to follow. "Too too solid flesh" was weak, but I almost dozed off somewhere in "To be or not to be," jerking awake around "undiscovered country". He also does a heh-heh-heh thing which is I presume meant to be his feigned madness, but I seem to recall was also his Doctor Evil laugh in the (largely unsatisfactory) History Cycle Richard III. I can't imagine that Cis Berry would be impressed: it's all rather obviously actorly. The shame is that when there are other people on stage with him, he's really good, and at a couple of moments you had flashes of what the production could have been: his scene with R&G culminating with his claim to be able to tell a hawk from a handsaw was truly excellent.
I like Slinger as a presence. I thought his Richard II was fabulous, his Macbeth very good, his Malvolio probably the first I've really enjoyed and his Prospero one of the better things in a somewhat flawed production. But here I think there's a whiff of it being a pet project of his and Farr's which should have been done a few years ago but was pushed aside in favour of Tennant's production with Doran. Which is a shame for them both, but I think the time has passed.
It's certainly not a bad production, and there's plenty to enjoy. It's just not satisfying. And Christ, it's slow.
Edit to add:
Reading that back, I think I wrote a lot more negatively than I intended.
The key point is that I enjoyed it, as did my elder daughter. It's just that the two major productions we've seen recently (Doran's at the RSC and Paul Miler's with John Simm at the Crucible) were a lot better, and I doubt many would disagree with that judgement.
I think that if you were studying Hamlet at school, or hadn't seen it for a while, or hadn't seen it done well, you'd be impressed. On my younger daughter's evidence it's a very good first production to see. Indeed, near us, a couple of people who weren't obviously American were enthusiastically ovating at the end. It's got the sort of attention to detail that you associate with Farr and, indeed, with the RSC more generally, and clearly a great deal of effort has been put into it.
There are all sorts of little touches which, tactically, work very well. Pace my usual objections, the Gravediggers (I think somewhat cut, but I could be wrong) deliver a useful counterpoint. All Denmark's a Prison is present, correct and relevant. Hamlet's on-stage right at the beginning, as the ghost makes his first appearance, which lends an interesting tension and I don't think I've seen done before. They avoid the popular temptation to imply R&G are interchangeable when Gertrude greets them, which I think has become a bore (the problem with that particular piece of business is that you spend the next five minutes recalling favourite lines from Stoppard's play). Scene by scene by scene, pacing aside, it's all present and correct.
My problem was that strategically, it lacks a vision of what the play is actually about, particular in terms of Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia. You don't get a real sense of Laertes' and Hamlet's conflicting but also parallel grief at Ophelia's graveside. Robin Soans' Polonius is very good in general, but the production decides to make his manipulation and control of Ophelia very explicit. But Charlotte Cornwall's Gertrude makes her grief for the wedding that never happened absolutely clear, helped by the way the madness scene is played (no spoilers!) I realise the text doesn't help here, and the difference between responses to a courtier's daughter's love for the prince in the seventeenth century and today is an issue. But to me it didn't quite gel. I doubt this would trouble new arrivals, but it troubled me. I was concerned by the nunnery scene, and I think the Guardian-reader in me was thinking "if you're going to play with misogyny and violence against young women, you need to think it through a bit more and justify your decisions more clearly". Given his recent speech on domestic violence, I wonder what Patrick Stewart would make of it.
I'm also concerned by the trend to cut Fortinbras at the end. The Doran production ended on "flights of angels sing thee to thy rest", and this ends on the next line "Why does the drum come hither?" I can see why it's done: aside from being logistically easier, it focusses the play on the tragedy of the family qua family, rather than the family qua royalty. The people that die are people, rather than title-holders, although that's undermined by Hamlet's anointing of Horatio as his successor, which obviously stays in. The play ends with a stage full of bodies, rather than with a regiment of soldiers milling around. However, it inevitably loses the lines "Take up the bodies: such a sight as this // Becomes the field, but here shows much amiss" which I think are core to the play, and I like the sense that the death of Hamlet and his family is followed by Denmark continuing anyway. Perhaps this is just me.
It's worth seeing (and, to judge by last night, tickets are easily available). But if you know the play well, don't expect to learn more about it than you already know.
Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:36 AM
Posted 11 June 2013 - 08:44 PM
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