Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: May ::
Re: Branagh's and Jennings's *Hamlet*s
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0478 Tuesday, 19 May 1998.

[1]     From:   Kristine Batey <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 18 May 1998 17:33:03 -0500
        Subj:   Re: Branagh Hamlet

[2]     From:   John McWilliams <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 May 1998 11:36:22  +0100
        Subj:   Re: Jennings Hamlet

[3]     From:   Peter Hillyar-Russ <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 19 May 1998 09:30:02 +-100
        Subj:   Hamlet



[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristine Batey <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 18 May 1998 17:33:03 -0500
Subject:        Re: Branagh Hamlet

Jean Peterson wrote:

>With all due respect to Justin Bacon, I do wonder at his holding up
>Branagh's *Hamlet* as a kind of standard or definitive *Hamlet*, as his
>suggestion implies.

I have to agree with Jean about the Branagh Hamlet. There was a lot to
like about it-the amount of textual material included set some parts of
the play into a totally different perspective. But I, too, found myself
put off by  the 19th-century setting. Anachronistic staging can work
very nicely on the live stage, but it's rough to pull off on film, which
is a terribly literal medium, without the anachronism being obtrusive.

Like Jean, I object to the addition of the prostitute, as well as the
Hamlet-Ophelia love scenes. Not only did those scenes scream "Check out
this movie-gratuitous sex and nudity!" but they destroy what I would say
is an important part of the play, the ambiguity of Hamlet's relationship
with Ophelia . Oddly enough, the Hamlet-Gertrude bedroom scene was
amazingly devoid of sexual tension; it eventually peters out into Hamlet
and Gertrude sitting on the settee, having a calm chat, with Polonius
stretched out on the floor in the background.

Branagh himself spends the whole movie tearing up the scenery and
out-Heroding Herod; I was very disappointed in his performance. And the
cameos, a la List of Adrian Messenger, got just plain silly.

Kristine Batey
Northwestern University

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John McWilliams <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 May 1998 11:36:22  +0100
Subject:        Re: Jennings Hamlet

> but his representation of
> his film as "the" complete *Hamlet* deliberately and dishonestly glossed
> over the very complex and interesting problems that the multiple texts
> of that play offer

Precisely. The great thing about the Jennings production was that it
was, and immediately claimed to be, an *interpretation* of Hamlet
(exactly what Branagh, dubiously, tries to deny). I'm sorry to hear that
Justin Bacon got bogged down in textual niceties and ended up hating
this production.  Personally, I found it wonderfully enjoyable (and,
incidentally, I think the cutting of the whole first scene was inspired,
as it allowed for more inclusion elsewhere). And, it must be said, Alex
Jennings acts rings round Kenneth Branagh...

>Why remove everything in the play which gives tangible proof
>that Hamlet is not insane

Well, I think that the definite proof that Hamlet is not insane which is
being sought here shouldn't be given by any production. Isn't one of the
play's virtues that it leaves us unsure as to the exact nature of
Hamlet's state of mind and that our responses to this character are
constantly shifting throughout the play. The Jennings production
certainly gave us that: sometimes Hamlet seemed sharp, witty, incisive -
perhaps the only character on stage who spoke any truth; sometime he
seemed dangerously delusional and frightening. Above all, the production
gave us an utterly absorbing character who was outrageously, brilliantly
theatrical and perhaps hollow, yet paradoxically one who gave the
tantalising impression of having "that within which passes show". And
this character drags a revenge plot way off course, but somehow it
doesn't matter because we want to see more of him.

Personally, I couldn't imagine a better introduction to Shakespeare or
'Hamlet' (or theatre generally) than this Jennings production.

Best,
John McWilliams

[3]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter Hillyar-Russ <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 19 May 1998 09:30:02 +-100
Subject:        Hamlet

I whole heartedly agree with Jean Peterson's feelings about the over
valuing of the Branagh "Hamlet" - I am surprised he did not call it
"William Shakespeare's Hamlet" and publish the book of the film, just as
he called his earlier film (and its book version) "Mary Shelley's
Frankenstein", to distinguish it from the novel of similar name written
by someone else, called, I think, Mary Shelley.

But other things are over valued too, and, in my humble opinion (well
not very humble, actually), the Jennings's Hamlet was also over valued.
The Much Ado featuring his Benedick, which ran in the Stratford
repertory along side that Hamlet was a far more interesting, inventive,
look at a Shakespeare play. I have no problem about modern productions,
but that Hamlet was so cut it had little more left in it than the 30min
cartoon "Animate Tales" version - and the Animated Tales did at least
give some indication that we were watching the story of treachery in a
royal house with implications wider than a single family.

As an English theatre goer with the good luck to live less than 50 miles
from Stratford, I sometimes wonder it the biggest over valuing
(especially by Americans) is of the RSC itself. It certainly produces a
lot of Shakespeare, and  maintains a very high standard - but its need
to retain its massive tourist income, causes a terrible conservatism,
especially on the Main Stage. When the company is allowed to do other
stuff in the smaller spaces they are much more adventurous. All of the
best reviews for English Shakespeare in recent years seem to be going to
the RNT in London:- Antony Sher's Titus Andronicus (with the
Johannesburg Market Theatre); Fiona Shaw's Richard II; Ian Holm's Lear;
Othello with Simon Russell Beale's Iago. This is largely because the
tourist market in London descends on the West End houses to see Cats and
the Mousetrap, and leaves the South Bank to develope a theatrical
excellence (readily available to tourists, at a cheaper price).

It's a pity they rather spoilt the South Bank by building the Globe.

Peter Hillyar-Russ

 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 
 

Other Messages In This Thread

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.