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Home :: Archive :: 1997 :: February ::
Re: Richard Burton's HAMLET
Shakespeare Electronic Conference: SHK 8.0212. Friday, 14 February 1997.

From:           David Evett <R0870%
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Date:           Thursday, 13 Feb 1997 16:40 ET
Subject: Re: Richard Burton's HAMLET
Comment:        SHK 8.0200   Re: Richard Burton's HAMLET

I saw the Burton Hamlet in Boston, before it got to Broadway (E. Taylor was
there for at least a couple of days, so the crowd outside the stage door was
large).  The production was spotty--the mixture of British and American actors
produced an odd melange of accents and styles, more noticeable then than now, I
suppose, because the musical RSC approach to things so dominated Shakespearean
production; and one gathers from William Redford's book about the show that
Gielgud's directing was pretty laissez faire.  Burton was exciting, except for
some rather perfunctory swordplay--he had more sheer fun with the madness north
northeast (Boston, don't you know) than anybody I'd seen before or since until
I watched young Branagh on the screen last week, plus all the complexity of
that singular voice, and a compelling presence.  He told some interviewer
(Lillian Roth?) that he had two distinct takes on the role, one manic, one
mournful, and followed one or the other line according to whether or not the
audience laughed at "Nay, madam, I know not seems," and so told him whether
they wanted to have fun or be moved.  We saw the manic one, I guess. There were
some nice touches in the costuming; Alfred Drake (like many Claudii effective
in the first half and less so in the second) wore elevator shoes; Hume Cronyn's
wonderfully dapper Polonius made good use of a tightly furled umbrella.  I'm
glad to know the film is available on tape, though as I recall from seeing it a
year or so after the performance it caught only part of the theatrical energy
we felt.

Reminiscently,
Dave Evett
 

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