I just saw a four-hour simulcast from the National Theatre in London of Hamlet. Done in modern dress -- when I see a classic done in modern dress, I know it's a director's play, a think piece [beyond whatever it is in and of itself]. Rory Kinneart was Hamlet, an ordinary looking young man, a very good actors, not physically magnetic as some previous Hamlets. The director of the National Theatre, and of this production is Nicholas Hytner. He was appropriately modest in an interview before the curtain went up. Modesty and theatrical director are opposites in concept.
This production was about a police state. There were spies lurking all the time, figures in neat FBI-ish suits at the edge of the scenes, there were files on everyone and everything. Claudius [Patrick Malahide] had a resemblance to Putin or a spy-movie mastermind. Gertrude was always in form fitting suits, very much a middle aged woman but never clearly defined. Poor Ophelia was stripped of her blouse and wandered about in her bra quite a long time -- a thin young thing, this chauvinistic attempt at titilation was clearly exploitation. The cast was satisfyingly mixed race which was fine in this setting. While it looked most like Russia, the many functionaries in their tightly buttoned suits could equally have been the President's counselors or a bunch of FBI officials.
And what of Rory Kineard as Hamlet? Yes, he's a fine actor but he is not magnetic, he was frenetic in his insanity at times, a directorial choice, I suspect not an actor's. Intrusions of jet plane noises, atonal music and such were in keeping but to me they were intrusions. The production is billed as "a Hamlet for our time." And it might be. I don't see Washington in the political commentary but our increasing public surveillance [cameras in all the major cities] is not an overt suggestion but comes to me. We missed 1984-ish Big Brother but we're getting there now. This may well be a statement on "our time" British, American, Russian, Chinese and many other places.
One Hamlet a decade really is enough.
ELDER MUSIC: Let's Face The Music And Dance - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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