Let’s ❤ #Shakespeare400

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The coming weekend is the big anniversary of Shakespeare’s death 400 years ago.

For those abroad, there will be special online content here (available internationally):

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/3gr3J7Pg9wHckbw5NWhBHFd/stars-shine-to-celebrate-shakespeare

There is a full schedule with timings, all GMT London time that is:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/events/ehw2mb/performances/lprbj5

Richard II – David Tennant – free online on demand (international as well)

Update! the Richard II will be streamed at the BBC site linked above, the site only goes live on the 23rd (they have tested it already but check back on the 23rd). As per the site, the Richard II will be available on the site from 10.30pm (BST) on 23rd April 2016.

Among other videos and documentaries from the British Council, the BFI, The RSC, the Globe and the Hay festival the full Richard II play from the RSC with David Tennant will be available for free.

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There are also unique insights into playing Shakespeare from Ian McKellen and specifically on Hamlet from Simon Russell Beale and Adrian Lester.

The Royal Opera House makes a contribution on ballet and opera inspired by Shakespeare.

TV & cinemas 

The RSC and the BBC have put on a special party in Stratford, which will be broadcast on TV but also live in cinemas around the country and soon also internationally; worth keeping an eye out for this ( Sat, 23rd April 2016, 8,30pm GMT)

Shakespeare Live! From the RSC

‘From the stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, hosts David Tennant and Catherine Tate are joined by Benedict Cumberbatch, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Dame Helen Mirren, Meera Syal, David Suchet, Rufus Wainwright, Tim Minchin, Gregory Porter, Joseph Fiennes, English National Opera, The Royal Ballet and Akala for a very special evening.

Together they mark the life and work of William Shakespeare on the 400th anniversary of the playwright’s death. This unique event takes place in the presence of their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall and celebrates Shakespeare’s extraordinary legacy and his enduring influence on all performance art forms – from opera to jazz, dance to musicals.’

Also on TV …

All manner of special shows, like a Countryfile with Judi Dench dedicated to Shakespeare landscapes.

Re-runs of the Hollow Crown part I (adaptations of Shakespeare’s history plays Richard II, Henry IV parts 1 & 2, and Henry V) starting with Monday, the 25th of April 11pm on BBC4:

Richard II with Ben Whishaw

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Followed next day, same time, BBC4 by Henry IV parts I and Wednesday part II, with Jeremy Irons:

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and lastly, Thursday  Henry V with Tom Hiddleston:

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London & online later

Shakespeare’s Globe – The Complete Walk

This is a series of 37 videos made for the celebration, each dedicated to a play which will be screen outside on buildings along the Thames during the weekend and will likely be available online after.

Check the Globe Player and the related iPhone app for further details on the videos (i assume shortly they will share the information online as well)

All Shakespeare400 events this year

For a round up of most events around the celebration check this website

http://www.shakespeare400.org/

#ShakespeareMe

So what am i doing?

  • watching the Winter’s Tale ballet at the Royal Opera House twice this week
  • recording the ShakespeareLive! show from Stratford;
  • recording the Countryfile with Judi Dench on Shakespeare
  • recording the re-run of the Hollow Crown part I
  • weather permitting spending the afternoon on the 23rd of April finding some of my favourite Shakespeare bits around The Complete Walk;
  • evening on the 23rd http://www.lpo.org.uk/whats-on-and-tickets/4372-shakespeare400-anniversary-gala-concert.html
  • 24th one of my favourite plays – Macbeth with one of my favourite actors – James McAvoy (finally! after thinking i missed out on this 🙂 )

 

Too much? Not really, not for me at least. The more is see and hear Shakespeare, the more i love him 🙂

Dear David about fans and work

 

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David Tennant at BAM Harvey Theater Photo: Emily Assiran for Observer

Article published today i think, very interesting read, while he is doing Richard II on Broadway (his first time in NY with theater if i understand correctly).

David Tennant Resuscitates Shakespeare in Brooklyn

I loved the production, have seen it twice and was curious how it would be received in NY and also hoping he would be ok doing it as he’s sadly recently lost a parent.

(I’m still wading though daily life and work but slowly back on track and i mean to catch up on writing, including a lot of theater, and this year January has definitely been the David Tennant month for me. I was aware he was in NY with the Richard II and was looking for reviews but bumped into this interesting and at the same time recognisable interview – ie his opinions are not surprising to me at this point. So until i get round to posting some stuff of my own i thought this was a nice read).

You can find the full article in the link above, but i like what he said about fans 🙂 and he’s met them even in gym showers 😉 :

‘So between Dr. Who and Jessica Jones and Harry Potter and Shakespearian plays, these are some of the biggest franchises in history. Which fandom is the most crazy-passionate about what they follow? Probably the most…obviously enthusiastic to me are Dr. Who fans, but then I suppose in a way that that’s the franchise that I’ve been most significantly involved with I guess by playing the title character for a number of years. But I certainly wouldn’t use the word “crazy.” It’s a lovely thing to be the representative of. It just means a lot to people and people get passionate about it. And certainly Harry Potter fans can be, too. I suppose I’m certainly more in the periphery of that with one appearance, but I think you know, as hobbies go, as things to spend your free time on go, I can absolutely understand that kind of fandom because I’ve been there myself. That’s more explicable to me than even being a sports fan.

When I’ve gone to the conventions or stuff I have a real affection and warmth for these people, especially ones who feel are sort of misfits in their day life and they get to be included with likeminded people. And a huge joy in that, definitely, an egalitarianism.’

Enjoy! I’ve not seen his Kilgrave yet but definitely plan to once it is more widely available.

The Crucible, 2 years and 11 times later

10/03 – Lunch-break edit. Sorry, dear readers. I am using this post a bit as my own notepad on things that i think about. I found an article citing Robert Delamere from back in 2010 when it was very early days for filming theater and it is interesting to see how he thought of his work and where it evolved to.

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From left to right: host Louise Jury, Zara White (Mercy Lewis), Anna Madley (Elizabeth Proctor), Marama Corlett (Betty Parris), Robert Delamere (filmed performance director) -Click for bigger version

Apologies in advance for the slightly disjointed re-telling of the discussion which lasted about 35-40 minutes. Due to increased security measures I had to leave my backpack at the cloakroom and I didn’t think of taking a notebook from the backpack, just my valuables and a bottle of water. I tried to keep my eyes and ears peeled and although I think I captured the meaning of what was said it won’t be the exact wording.

I don’t know how much of this will be new to you, but it was interesting, especially since we haven’t had a chance before to hear Robert Delamere talk more extensively about his experience with the Crucible. His answers and comments were peppered throughout the discussion, but for some reason I found it easier to recall them separately; His were the closing words before the screening began 🙂

They were all excited about there being another screening of the Crucible, some saw it for the first time on screen on this occasion. It was a good discussion;  It was also bit emotional to see such familiar faces again and it obviously brought back some very fond memories for them too. It was great to have the opportunity to see the play again and the talk at the beginning added something special to it, I’m thankful to them for making the time 🙂

Without further ado:

Screen talk with Marama Corlett (Betty Parris), Anna Madley (Elizabeth Proctor), Zara White (Mercy Lewis), Robert Delamere (filmed performance director) – hosted by Louise Jury

  • Louise Jury commented that at the time of the premiere she was still a member of the press and she was the one who at the end of such an emotional evening ‘got to ask the question about how it felt to be back on stage after 12 years?’
  • AM, MC and ZW all mentioned how happy they were the performance had been captured especially for all those who at the time could not see it in personal, particularly internationally (they all seemed to remember with fondness how many people were interested in the show); all 3 mentioned that people did indeed come to see the show from all corners of the world and that it was exciting that so many people wanted to see it;

Roles & Rehearsing:

  • Anna Madley –Elizabeth Proctor – it is such a great part and so interesting because women in the play – wives -only have power in their society through the men and yet, as the play progresses, the balance changes; She was fascinated also by trying to show a ‘good’ woman as it is hard to play ‘good’.
  • Anna Madley – in rehearsals they created this safe space where they could experiment and understand/live their character. Yael spent a lot of time defining the society in which these people lived, their beliefs, constraints, rules and interactions so that they were able to find the place of ‘their’ character in this society. But it was equally a play of personal detail, of showing the couple trying to rebuild their broken relationship, trying to work through the adultery.
  • All 4 commented about the background of the play and the historical approach saying that although the political messages Miller included was very much present they were also interested in the historical story depicted and its inspiration. The way this particular society works was an important part of the production, who the people are, what their roles are within this community. How a community can come to tear itself apart and ‘accuse their neighbour’. Jury mentioned for the audience present that it was a very dark interpretation of the play. (They tried to keep the discussion general as, after inquiry, there were quite a few in the audience who didn’t know the play so they didn’t want to spoil too much of the story)
  • Marama Corlett mentioned that her ballet training came in very handy when creating the ‘possessed movements’ but they were very lucky in having a great choreographer with whom they worked in great detail. Her naturally petite frame helped in portraying a young girl;
  • Zara White commented on the extended collaborative work they did within the group of girls; they spent long periods of time of time together and really felt as a unit; Louise Jury commented about how frightening they were as a group and how fascinating it was to watch the power these girls came to hold over the people in town. Anna Madley jokingly commented that she felt left out of the ‘girl group’.
  • The word intense came back again and again about rehearsals and when asked how was the run after all the rehearsals all 3 said smilingly ‘intense’; Robert Delamere and Louise Jury also confirmed that ‘intense’ also defined their experience of seeing the show live.

Performing :

  • They remember the sounds and smells; apparently some plants may have been imported to produce the specific smell that wafted through the hall at the beginning;
  • Yael wished that they could have captured the sensory experience as well as the visual one 🙂
  • They initially had a live chicken in the show and it housed on the rooftop of the Old Vic for several months but unfortunately would not comply with the hygiene requirements on stage and finally got its P45 before the previews 🙂
  • It was 5 very intense months and at the end of the evening some found relief in drinks 😉 Anna Madley said she went back home to breastfeed her baby and sadly had to miss out on all the drinks during the entire run, for which she was envious;
  • They said they couldn’t really sleep during those 5 months;
  • They were thrilled that it was filmed but Anna Madley mentioned that they had to concentrate to not try and deliver the best for the camera but forget that the cameras were there and work as if it is a normal theatre performance where you try to better your last one and continue exploring the character each day; She also mentioned that in a way you continue doing that until the end of the run when you wish you had another run to continue experimenting and improving. In the end they found they forgot about the cameras and treated them in their locations as if they were just another member of the audience sitting there.

Audience/performing in the round:

  • Slight jokes from Zara White and Anna Madley in response to a questions from LJ about the ‘passionate fans’; They mentioned that Richard Armitage ‘bless him, went out every single night after the performance to sign and take pictures with the fans’. Zara said ‘there were hundreds of them! … well, maybe I am exaggerating ;-), but there were many!’ and that they had quite some characters in the performances. Marama Corlett added that actually they felt the support from the audience and the warmth and that she felt as if people were ‘giving them a hug’ in emotional support;
  • Performing in the round was both exciting and challenging as it can be potentially distracting to have the audience so close. Anna Madley mentioned that she was thrilled about working in the round as all your expressions and all of you is exposed as you can be seen from all angles. And that although you act for the people immediately next to you, at the same time you have to make sure you reach the person in the last corner and that the Old Vic is quite high.
  • Marama Corlett remembered standing by the side stairs looking at the audience and ‘seeing them getting tired’ (she didn’t mean because of long sitting, but rather as a consequence of tension and intensity, even though as an audience you are sitting and watching) and also getting emotionally involved and wanting to engage with what was happening very directly.
  • All 3 mentioned that it was special to build that connection to the audience each night and feel at the end of each night a sort of unity, shared experience. (it seemed to me that the connection to the audience was something that they remembered fondly from the experience).

Robert Delamere:

  • The Crucible has been a very successful recording, over 3 million students have seen it through their special education programme; since they first included it in their catalogue it has been the top seller to this day;
  • He’s always been fascinated with the play, had directed the Sheffield Crucible a few years earlier and had been keen to see the Old Vic version on stage;
  • He saw it in the previews and was convinced it needed to be captured 🙂 He told his team after the performance ‘We are doing The Crucible!’
  • The Miller estate were very supportive of the project and are very happy with the result and also its international reach; they have kept coming back for several copies since and there was a special screening for the family in the US;
  • He loved working with Yael and he wanted to capture the feeling of it as accurately as possible; he approached her and she said she would take as much time as necessary to talk about the play and direction – they ended up spending 9 hours together thinking and planning with Delamere story-boarding each scene (ohhh, so there were his boards! J fascinating!)
  • It was captured on 3 consecutive nights and took about 10 weeks to edit; they had about 9 cameras filming the performance. In edits he went back to the emotional core of each scene – they discussed what were the 3 emotional points that needed to be focused on in each scene, rather than just the lines themselves – and this is how they decided which angles to show.
  • He expressed a hope that they had managed to capture for the screen that intensity which characterised the experience in the theatre and that the audience in the cinema would feel the connection to it by the end of the play.
  • He thought the last scene was especially beautiful and touching with these 2 people letting go of all barriers and walls they had built up and baring their souls to each other the way they hadn’t done in years. It was his favourite moment from the play (he expressed it very beautifully; wish I could have remembered his exact words).
  • They were excited about the twitter support and had fun watching the bits of news being followed by so many people
  • The project is special to him also on a personal note because he was lucky to meet Miller himself when he was 25 and Miller was 83 and he asked Miller what he would like audiences to take away from the play. Miller said: ‘life is about courage’. He believes this Crucible certainly captures that message.

 

PS. This is all for tonight, it is 2am, I am wide awake and full of thoughts about the play.

Right back where I was sometime in July 2014. Tonight it does not feel at all like it was nearly 2 years ago.

And unsurprisingly I’ll have some more thoughts to share about seeing the play again so I’ll be editing this over the next few days.

10/03 – Delamere back in 2010, when theater filming was at its beginnings. The subject fascinates me as i like drama on TV and on stage and i find sometimes they get closer and closer together. He managed to put the finger on why i always felt the filmed Crucible was quite different from other plays i saw broadcast in the cinema, why it felt so far away from a static capture.

http://www.theartsdesk.com/theatre/digital-theatre-page-stage-screen

and an interview 5 years later:

The Crucible Interview: Director Robert Delamere

 

It happened in Denmark…

Benedict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Let’s get some things out of the way first. I am not sure the Barbican has handled this whole customer relationships thing well. In fact, as far as i am concerned they couldn’t have alienated and annoyed me more. And i’ve been visiting it for a good few years. But they have never before treated me like a 3 year old! Ever since i purchased Hamlet tickets they have been bombarding me with emails about how to behave, what to do and not to do, what would happen and what wouldn’t. And as the day came it only got worse. In total i got 5! warnings yesterday about turning all my equipment off: one via email, three via building communications and 1 from an usher face to face. (I never think such insistent warnings are of any use, a reminder before the start is good and people who pay attention will then turn phones off and that is that. The ones who don’t care or set out to capture images/sounds will not be deterred, no matter how many warnings are issued. My point was only proven by what my friend told me she observed, ie someone recording one of the soliloquies on her mobile phone with the closest usher not noticing/not doing anything about it). The another usher  sat less than 2 meters away, facing me and the people around me and stared at us during the entire show. That is when she didn’t go in and out(several times) or maneuvered her water bottle, in fact disturbing much more than anyone of the audience. Announcements were repeated, several times after the interval. And to top it all off this morning i got another email, this time to shift product on me, with the promise they could send it anywhere in the world. This in addition to the program i bought by mistake last night, thinking it was the usual £4, when in fact it turned out it was £8.50! By the time they told me i had already handed my card over and didn’t have the chutzpah to demand it back.

So i saw the play and managed to enjoy the evening in spite of all this harassment and the general circus going on around it. It is a real pity both venue and press are creating such an unpleasant atmosphere around the play. It’s contrary to a relaxed, warm, welcoming and excited atmosphere which would ‘prime’ the audience to be receptive to the play. You have to work away the annoyance and force yourself to relax and be positive. Thankfully for once i arrived with plenty of time to spare and had managed to bag a cheap but decent seat on a side of the upper circle and was hovering above the audience with almost only the stage in front of me. Just the way i like it 🙂

And enjoy it i did. It was a bit similar to watching a decent movie at the cinema, a good couple of hours capturing your full attention and telling you an interesting story. After all this is one of the best story tellers in history 😉 I can’t imagine a scenario where Hamlet could ever be really boring. And this was also pleasant to look at.

The staging seems to have been the subject of much debate and some controversy. I can’t quite follow why. Nothing i saw was in any way controversial, totally out of place or offensive to the eye. Es Devlin is known for the big sets and this was a very realistic interpretation of a stately mansion or palace. It was pretty lavish, with walls in tones of blue/green, decorated with armoury and big chandeliers and the dark wood stage boards worked well with it. It had big doors through which chairs or tables, pianos could be moved changing the scenes seamlessly and without need for pause. In the second part rubble invaded the place  in an effective and clear symbol for the crumbling rein in Denmark. It is a world headed to its demise.

Nothing unique, nothing particularly original, but functional. Time and place where somewhat indeterminate, which again wasn’t something that deterred for me from the story.

If this had been an opera production (and there certainly is an opera of Hamlet ;-)) i’d say this was pretty traditional, standard fare, made in good state and with pleasing and elegant aesthetics. It was very straight forward, totally uncontroversial for me. In fact this is probably of all Es Devlin’s sets i’ve seen the least complex, least imaginative. I’ve come to like her usual puzzle-piece, layered work and frankly i was surprised how simple this was. I guess the money went more towards fittings and decoration than structure. Personally, i would have preferred her to go for one of the peel-back ideas where the world literally falls apart in front of our eyes rather than just the mounds of rubble and debris.

I just missed some of her amazing ingenuity here.But what was on stage did its job and didn’t get in the way of the action. Nothing much wrong with that at the end of the day. Also, it was a good set acoustically. Again, if this had been an opera i would have applauded the build, with big strong walls creating hard resonance surfaces. As you can see below it effectively creates a corner and a box which is great for resonance and projection.

But, it turns out the voices were all amplified. I’m not a fan at all of amplification in theatre, but there are some mitigating factors here: the theatre is covered in velvet material, the floors too and it makes it absorb sound very badly, so in spite of the good set it may have created some problems with acoustics. But.. i have seen theatre in this place before, including Shakespeare and it was unamplified and there was no problem hearing the actors. The amplification was done very well i have to say, there was no disturbance to the sound at all and volume of individual actors remained consistent throughout which means they have a very good sound engineer. Well done. It is still not my preferred way of hearing theatre because it almost inevitably creates some unnatural effects: like people being equally as loud when their backs are turned, like loosing some of the impact of sound when people move through the set, again because the quality of sound remains consistent. Consistence is a positive but to me the voice moves within the space adds to the acting and the feel of things. I am not generalising and i do recognise i am talking from the pov of someone very sensitive to sound and very fond of all its details. Also, amplification invariably impacts volume, essentially you almost always loose the ability for those barely heard whispers. The ones where you have to literally strain to hear, the ones which draw you in, which make you mentally almost crawl on stage. Asides of characters also become more complicated when you hear everyone almost equally loud.  Also some characters will be more amplified than others and this is audible to me. I thought BC was done extremely well, i’m tempted to say there was probably very little of it, as there was no reverb to his voice at all and it didn’t loose its natural tone, he was never too loud which made it feel very natural. However others were clearly too loud for nature, like Ophelia, whose probably naturally soft voice was amplified beyond my liking. I thought it would have actually suited the character to be less loud than anyone else. Laertes who sounded like he naturally had quite a bit of projection sounded way too loud also.

Ciaran Hinds, Claudius – Photo Johan Persson

I remain unconvinced there was a good reason for the amplification other than it allowed the production to put through a lot of sounds of wind, rumbles, gusts and general noise. I also wasn’t convinced this extended soundtrack was necessary or added much. I thought Ophelia’s piano playing was a lovely addition and a beautiful way to point to her sensible soul, in addition to her photographic hobby. Here’s one character i never thought good Will has done justice to in the play. She doesn’t get many words so a lot has to be implied. I liked the fact that they showed us she has a gentle, introspective, somewhat observing soul. Not a go-getter 🙂 And therefore a match for Hamlet in life. So we got to see a bit more than the few words allowed her to tell us. Which was good, as i didn’t get much sense of Ophelia herself before her end in the 2nd part…

Sian Brooke, Ophelia, photos Johan Persson

Speaking of the 2 parts of the show, i thought it become a much more interesting play in the 2nd half. The first felt to me incredibly fast-paced, almost rushed. It’s a platitude, but silences are just as important as words in a play and this has many words. And they came as an unbroken, constant flow. All were very clear, well articulated, by everyone. There was no instance of garbled lines, no word which lost its meaning in the process. But gosh, we only ever got time to ingest, not digest. The set meant scene changes were seamless and the action just moved on but this left us with no breathing space at all, since even when there were props being moved about there was either some sound or music or the words continued. Hamlet is in many ways a thriller, but even suspense needs time to build! And stuff happened so fast no emotion really got a chance to develop, you didn’t have time as an audience to be shocked, to feel fear, to feel sad or appalled. You just watched the action.

And there was a lot of laughing and giggling. The text is often ironic and Hamlet’s double meaning words often trigger giggles as it is a spontaneous reaction that happens immediately, no need to think about it. But we, or at least i, never got to wonder or fear what would happen next as before i got a chance to consider it had already happened.

Thankfully things slowed down a bit in the second part, particularly in the graveyard scene, and an atmosphere finally built and we got a bit more feeling with a bit less action. But it was really too late to develop any rapport with some of the characters who we lost before we even really got to know them properly.

The whole thing felt very often like watching history unfold, fall towards a devastating end. Hamlet can certainly be seen that way, history happening and one bad decision bringing on another and another until the whole construction crumbles and nothing is left. History is full of the rapid demises of families and whole lines being wiped out in one go. Fortinbras and his ascent in his own house and country is a brief but stark contrast to what is happening in Denmark.

This is the story that i felt was effectively, speedily and clearly told. Nobody left the theatre not knowing what happened in Denmark. But the question for me is: did history just happen to people in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? They seem to be unable to stop it and it drags them to the grave and renders them all… just skulls. You could say this happens no matter who the people are, what they feel, what moves them and none of that matters once they are all dust.

Anastasia Hille, Gertrude,photo Johan Persson

Except, aren’t we there to get to know the people it happens to? What is the point of making these people speak to us and each other? We could read what happened to them in a history book (well, some of it ;-)), but i never felt with Shakespeare that things just happen. It is always people who make them happen, their flaws, their virtues, their emotions. There is always feeling behind the words or driving the words, it is not just action.

But i felt most of the time all i heard and saw was what was happening not what was being felt. There were a few moments of emotion, like Hamlet hesitating to stab Claudius while he is praying, there is a real moment of torment and doubt there and there is some emotion in his confrontation with his mother, where he breaks down for an instant and you think the shell finally cracked. But none of it really gets a chance to gain momentum.

Neither gestures nor words explain what connects Claudius to Gertrude. They feel more like a couple who has been together for years and years, there is a feeling of familiarity about them but no passion or connection other than the functionality of the royal house. It comes almost as a surprise when Claudius in a longer speech reveals the sun goes up and sets for him with Gertrude. And even then you wonder if it is just some sort of politics he is playing trying to be even more convincing.

You don’t get a sense if Ophelia was ever touched by Hamlet’s letters and if she feels any regret in returning them or if Hamlet has any hesitation in seeing them again before pushing her away. Hamlet seems driven by action in an almost relentless way, as if almost to stop himself from thinking. The madness is more rational irrationality but never infused with uncontrollable emotion. But it makes sense for him to not know what to do but try and do something so actions may seem erratic. But his mother does not seem overly distressed by either his actions or his demeanour, neither was i, to be honest.

It was as if Hamlet himself never got to take a breath and ponder what he was really feeling as he had to constantly deal with something, talk to somebody, do something, respond to something. So we don’t see or know: is he afraid, is he grieving, is he tormented? The words sometimes indicated it but neither we nor he gets a chance to explore and show any of it much. He certainly looks lonely, almost isolated, apart from it all and yet hooked by the throat and dragged along, like in an avalanche. Horatio running around, constantly wearing a backpack, doesn’t seem to be able to try and stop him or slow down the slide. He seems pretty frantic himself, rather than attempting to be a grounding influence on Hamlet.

Claudius is best described as regal, he certainly is in charge of it all, to the point where he never really seems to loose control. The big speech reveals his actions but we also feel he has accepted the consequences and is prepared to carry on to the end. There is no doubt or remorse or fear that i got at any point, the public face of the king had very much become also his private one. Matters were not helped by the theatre scene being played with the court audience  kept almost in the dark on the stage. We never got to see the character’s most hidden thoughts and feelings, we never saw them faltering, hesitating. He also recovers very quickly in the face of Laertes’ anger and public support and the political solution comes easy and convincing.You never feel that he would have really been in danger there. Laertes is never more than an impulsive, anger and grief filled youth, the only one who seems truly driven by uncontrollable emotions in the play.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Laertes) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Hamlet) in Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Then there was Karl Johnson playing both the ghost and the gravedigger. Strange as it may be, the most ‘normal’ character in the whole play 🙂 Shakespeare is great at giving us some moments of relief from the tension and the amazing thing was that, as both characters, in few words he managed to give us a sense of exactly who he is and what kind of person we are listening to. It also helped that his delivery was unrushed, natural but filled with emotion, even if just dark irony about human fate and death.

Karl Johnson, king’s ghost/gravedigger, photo Johan Persson

Some humanity came across also with Polonius. Here he never gets to be more than a fussy, almost pompous character and we only get a chance to understand his true connection to his children through their grief about his death, which is palpable. If you think about it though – there is no time to do so during the play – you realise what a contrast this is between the impersonal relationship Hamlet has with his family. Polonius fusses over and constantly throws advice at his two children. While Gertrude and Claudius get other people to ‘deal’ with Hamlet. This should be both irritating (which you get slight sense of) but also saddening, and it never quite reaches us all the way.

I am sure a lot of thought was given to the relationships and meanings and feelings. As was to the production. I think in their determination to not overcomplicate, over-emphasise the story they strove for clarity, in text delivery, in visuals, in all messages on stage. They tried to lift the dust and some weight of Shakespeare making it feel very natural and straight-forward, which i think they achieved. But i think in the process they forgot that some of the weight is emotional and we shouldn’t just get to know a story but be filled with sorrow for what happens to these people. It is the only way we will remember it, the only way it will be a truly meaningful experience. I think they told the story of Hamlet but never gave the audience a chance to feel for Hamlet, to be filled with his anger, to feel his doubt, to be touched by his loneliness and ultimately to cry for his untimely death and short, unfulfilled life.

I don’t fully understand why they made the choices they made, but i’m saddened by the emotional restraint they chose to impose on the actors and none more than Hamlet himself. In his many roles, both on stage and on screen he’s never failed to touch me and i was looking forward to tapping into that wealth of emotions he carries. And to the end it felt out of reach, Hamlet remained sadly guarded and introverted when all we want as an audience is to share in his loneliness, to be his sole confessor if you will.

I’ll return on the last day and who knows, maybe in the meantime something will unlock, the run is still in its early stage. One can but hope, because the potential i know is there and frankly i expect much more of an evening with Shakespeare than just action.

Cast

Soldier:Barry Aird
Danish Captain / Servant:Eddie Arnold
Horatio:Leo Bill
Ophelia:Sian Brooke
Servant / Cornelius:Nigel Carrington
Player King:Ruairi Conaghan
Hamlet:Benedict Cumberbatch
Guildenstern:Rudi Dharmalingam
Priest / Messenger:Colin Haigh
Official:Paul Ham
Player Queen / Messenger:Diveen Henry
Gertrude:Anastasia Hille
Claudius:Ciarán Hinds
Laertes:Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Ghost of Hamlet’s Father:Karl Johnson
Polonius:Jim Norton
Official:Amaka Okafor
Barnardo:Dan Parr
Courtier:Jan Sheperd
Voltemand:Morag Siller
Rosencrantz:Matthew Steer
Fortinbras:Sergo Vares
Marcellus:Dwane Walcott

Creative

DirectorLyndsey Turner
Set DesignEs Devlin
Costume DesignKatrina Lindsay
Video DesignLuke Halls
Lighting DesignJane Cox
MusicJon Hopkins
Sound DesignChristopher Shutt
MovementSidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Bendict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

PS One of the things we talked about with my friend was what a pity it is Benedict has gotten so big he probably can’t do things at the Globe just because of the sheer amount of people who want to see it, as he would probably be great at it and it can be a very rewarding experience to be able to see and feel the audience’s immediate reactions.

Speaking of the Globe and productions in London, there is actually 2! Oresteia going on, one in Trafalgar Studios, which transferred from the Almeida and the other at the Globe. And in case you thought London is the place for mostly traditional productions…

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Jamie Parker back to West End in Guys and Dolls

THEATRE NEWS (source Whatsonstage)

Chichester Guys and Dolls comes to West End as part of UK tour

 Brilliant news! I’ve recently had the pleasure to see him again in Old Vic’s High Society and loved this production last year, can’t wait to see it again! The  production will run at the Savoy Theatre

Jamie Parker in the Chichester production
Jamie Parker in the Chichester production

Chichester Festival Theatre’s acclaimed production of Guys and Dolls will transfer to the West End later this year as part of a UK tour, opening at the Savoy Theatre afterGypsy closes in November.

Gordon Greenberg’s production, which will see Sophie Thompson and Jamie Parkerreprise their roles, will play a limited 13-week run at the Savoy from 10 December 2015.

The tour will open in Manchester on 10 November, and will also visit Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and Bristol. Further casting is to be announced.

The show is choreographed by Carlos Acosta and Andrew Wright and musical direction is from Gareth Valentine. Design is by Peter McKintosh, with lighting and sound by Tim Mitchell and Paul Groothuis.

The transfer will mark the second Chichester production at the Savoy in a row; Imelda Staunton stars in Gypsy there until 28 November.