Saturday, January 29, 2005

A Half Moon Bay Hamlet

Klaus: Gertrude, I have to now why your son is acting strange.
Peter: I think your son is mad. He has no brains. All he wants is my daughter. You should send him away. Get him out of Half Moon Bay. Send him over the hill.
Gertrude: I can't. He's the only son I have.
Klaus: It would be better for us if he leaves. It would be better for him, too.
Peter: I will spy on him for you to see if he really is upset about Ophelia or if he's having problems with drugs.
[Developed by the students in Ms. Lunstroth's Senior English Class] [via street computing]

Me: the entire play?

"I just had a patron call and ask me to print out "Hamlet""

50 Book Challenge: Hamlet

"During this play, it felt as though Hamlet could to nothing but wine/bemoan his existance. Even from the very beginning - before he learns of his father's murder - he is considering suicide. Yes, his father is dead and his mother married his uncle not long after, but GET OVER IT."

Alas, 'Hamlet,' you're a shadow of yourself

Wierd editing at a production by the Keyhole Theatre Company at the Josephinum, North Oakley: "And don't blink, because you'll miss some rather key moments, including the all-important "Mousetrap" scene in which Hamlet catches the conscience of the king. That's right. It's not there. This is one of the most bizarre decisions anyone could make, as it's one of the few moments in which Hamlet decides to do anything. Most importantly, it's the scene in which Hamlet lets Claudius know that someone knows how King Hamlet died. Without this scene, we forget about Hamlet midway through the play and begin to focus on Claudius (well-played by Kyle Lemieux). And rightly or wrongly, we begin to sympathize with the false king, because in this version it's guilt, rather than fear of exposure, that inspires Claudius to pray."

Make time for 'Times Like These'

New piece features unusual play within a play which sounds like Shakespeare meets Mel Brooks: "Dressed in the uniform of the SS, Oscar portrays Hamlet as a power-hungry, unstable individual who is not to be trusted. Ophelia becomes a stand-in for Germany, who is victimized by false promises and Hamlet's abusive behavior. Though the outcome is inevitable, playing out their hopeless scheme adds tension to the play and unites the audience to their cause."

Public Theatre of Kentucky presenting Shakespeare tragedy

Lanham's love of Shakespeare began last fall when he performed in a production of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at Western Kentucky University. 'There are several parts in 'Hamlet' that I would have liked to play. I love Shakespeare,' he said. 'He's one of the few writers that directs from the grave. You can find out everything about a character in the lines that are spoken.'

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hang on, didn't you?

On my home tonight a woman came and sat on the seat across the isle away from me. I spent some of the journey trying to remember were I'd seen her before. Then as I was getting up to get off the bus I noticed she was standing in front of me and that I knew who she was ...
Me: Can I ask you a completely random question?
Her: I you like.
Me: Did you ever play Ophelia in Hamlet at the Unity Theatre?
Her: Ooh err. Yes. That was six years ago ...
Me: I have a good memory for faces and ....
Her: You would have seen me completely mad and singing ...
Me: I just thought you were really good.
Her: (laughing) Thanks very much.
We parted company after that, walked our separate ways.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

An adaptation completely in Bahasa Malaysia

"Hamlet in Bahasa Malaysia is much more interesting than the original thing. It didn't sound like the bad dubbing that we usually get in (non-English) foreign-language TV series like Maria Mercedes and such. In fact, the language made Hamlet more accessible and closer to home. Sure, Yap does speak with a Western accent, but some Malaysians do speak Bahasa Malaysia like that. "It's not as hard as I thought it would be. I was Malay-educated," said Yap. "I just have to do it over and over again."

Monday, January 24, 2005

Altonaer-Theate production reviewed by Lars Oppermann

Interesting approach to the soliloquies: "A more questinable choice was to have parts of Hamlet's monolouges replayed from a recording as to present them as a sort of 'inner dialouge'. Combined with the fact that the ghost of the dead King does not appear on stage but is rather spoken by Hamlet too, things might become a bit confusing. While the original play Marcellus and Horatio are wittness to the 'Imagination', it's all in Hamlet's head now. This fits quite well with the audience not bening in the clear about Hamlet's mental state at all times though it gives too much wight to the possibility of him being truely insane rather then pretending it."

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Student strikes proper prose as Hamlet in Maui

"A Lahainaluna senior playing Hamlet in a scene where he is debating whether to kill his uncle, King Claudius, who is the murderer of his father, won over the judges in the local round of the English Speaking Union 2005 National Shakespeare Competition."

Friday, January 21, 2005

Olivier Awards Nominations

... and Ben Whishaw's youthful Hamlet at the Old Vic is nominated in the Best Actor catagory.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Skinhead Hamlet

"Our hope was to achieve something like the effect of the New English Bible."
[Well, there is some swearing.]

Hamlet The Text Adventure

"I am in my bedroom in the palace. There is a four-poster bed, and not much else. A portrait hangs on the wall. An exit leads north."

Saturday, January 01, 2005


Why Hamlet? Because everyone should have a weblog.

Yes, that's an oversimplification, but really it's difficult to put into words why I'm writing this without it sounding mildly to maddeningly pretentious. So forgive me if I stray into that territory. Believe me you were lucky. I nearly tried to write this in blank verse.

I was watching a documentary the other night called 'Playing The Dane'. It was from the early nineties and featured the talking heads of a diverse series of actors from Stacey Keach to Kevin Kline to Christopher Walken talking about the time they appeared in a production. The closing To Be Or Not To Be montage is on the BBC website.

There was an excellent moment (a fragment which can be seen in this interview collection) were Sir Ian McKellan talked about the man who bounded in his dressing room at the Cambridge Theatre and said 'Congratulations, you're my sixty-eighth Hamlet, and I remember something about every one of them. When Maurice Evans played it, he had a little hole in his tights here.' McKellan ponders what he remembered about his.

There's something really quite epic about that. What would it have been like to have seen so many actors set out to play the same role. Would they really play it in so many different ways and could you really remember the remarkable performances over the average, and indeed something about all of them? How would you feel at the end of that? Would it put you off drama for life, gain a greater appreciation, or would you at the very least feel as though you understood what the play was actually about?

Being up to a challenge, I've decided to find out. I'm going to see as many productions of Hamlet as I can before I shuffle of this mortal coil. I'll be seeing and hearing him in the theatre, on film, on tv and radio, on cd and even vinyl or cassette. Since that man's sixty-eight is the highest number I've even heard of, I'm going to use that as a guide, a milestone. From there to a hundred and then who knows? There won't be any time limits though, sanity being a premium and money being an object. The only rule being that a performance will only count if I've seen or heard it from start to finish through a whole production. If the actor's going from ghost to jest to death, I'll be there with them. Also I've already seen about ten of them, and although I'll make a point of rewatching as many of those as I can, the theatre productions have come and gone, but I'll include them anyway.

I'll post reviews of each production as proof, and for memory, and keep a running tally.

Why Hamlet?

As Richard Briers said once when asked what Hamlet was about, he said 'It's about four hours.' That's the full text, with a quick intermission between for the actors to take a breather and for the audience to clear their bowels. Most productions are cut down to about two hours and it'll be interesting to see what ends up being cut most often.

Generally the only thing to stay in is the central story which runs thus, as told by the Wikipedia:
"Prince Hamlet, the title character, is the son of the late King of Denmark, who was also named Hamlet. He is charged by the ghost of his father to avenge his murder, which he finally succeeds in doing, but only after the rest of the royal house has been wiped out and he himself has been mortally wounded with a poisoned rapier by Laertes."
That's the arc of the character and it gives away the ending. But being a Shakespeare tragedy you knew everyone was going to die anyway so go with it.

What it doesn't do is express what a exciting multi-faceted story, multi-genre, narrative, thing it is. It's a ghost story, revenge drama, a love story, detective story, comedy, psychological study, sports drama, all drowning in the kitchen sink. No one is entirely as they seem and no one walks away clean. No matter who plays him, Hamlet is a gut-wrenching central character who you just have to care for simply because of the number of faces he has to wear for so many people; he's unremittingly human, a man who makes mistakes but keeps bouncing back. None of William Shakespeare's plays pulls in so many direction or is open to so many different interpretations. Some sections can be played as out and out comedy, or deadly serious -- and it can work both ways.

It's also oft quoted but simply because there is so much great language. Time and again, especially if you're listening to the full text, every day phrases and aphorisms will pop up during the play's nuts and bolts dialogue. But there are also some section of heartbreaking poetry. The Yorik speech for example, whilst edging into cliche though over mis-quoting is a perfect evocation of nostalgia but also out existence in the memories of others after death.

It's also flexible -- I've heard it turned into everything from a dance track to a folk song. References appear, well everywhere and it's been translated into a hundred languages including Klingon. There just seems to be so many other things to write about.

Why Hamlet? Because everyone should have a weblog.