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Home :: Archive :: 2001 :: June ::
Re: Beale's Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 12.1388  Wednesday, 6 June 2001

[1]     From:   Barrett Fisher <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 11:33:35 -0500
        Subj:   Beale's Hamlet

[2]     From:   David Bishop <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 15:05:09 -0400
        Subj:   Re: SHK 12.1359 Beale's Hamlet

[3]     From:   Christine Gilmore <
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        Date:   Wed, 6 Jun 2001 11:07:47 -0400
        Subj:   Review of Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Barrett Fisher <
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Date:           Tuesday, 05 Jun 2001 11:33:35 -0500
Subject:        Beale's Hamlet

I saw the RNT Hamlet at the Guthrie Theater in May.  I did sit fairly
close, though to the extreme left of a thrust stage, so certain staging
effects were lost on me (for example, the production seemed to be using
a rather well-worn conceit of the play as play; several of the actors
stood in what appeared to be boxes at the rear of the stage, suggesting
dolls being brought out for play time).  In general, the production
lacked a coherent vision; while the "doll effect" as well as a few
choral scenes (all the actors surrounding Horatio at the opening of the
play, and again later on, in the manner of a silent chorus) suggested a
metatheatrical reading, the very strong Christian imagery and music
suggested another thematic emphasis.  It seemed as though Caird was
trying for something new, but wasn't sure what it was.  The use of
trunks for rearranging into the various settings seemed to me rather
brilliant staging, but not organically connected to either of the other
two strands (though closer to metatheatricality than Christianity!)

I greatly enjoyed Beales'performance, though I did not find his Hamlet
particularly "intelligent" (I think that was one of the London critic's
term).  I did think that he found a humor in the role that is sometimes
overlooked; I have never before heard an audience laugh during 3.3 (at
"this is hire and salary"), but it worked (at least for my
performance).  This Hamlet seemed much more emotionally connected with
his mother (the closet scene was quite affecting; again, a touch of
humor at the end added much, as Gertrude smoothed Hamlet's tousled
hair--it was one device Beale used to convey his antic disposition--and
me made a face at her and returned it to his disheveled state.

One aspect of the staging that I found both cinematic and effective
underscored Hamlet's relative coldness towards Ophelia (as opposed to
the warmth for his mother, though nothing sexual here).  The interval
was taken halfway through 3.2; beforehand, the Mousetrap was downstage
and the onstage audience upstage; afterwards, the positions were
reversed, with the effect of a change in camera angle.  Rather than
having Ophelia exit with everyone else, she lingers on stage, but Hamlet
plays attention only to Horatia, deliberately (it would appear) ignoring
Ophelia's glances.  It had the interesting effect of putting the
emotional climax of their relationship here, rather than in the nunnery
scene, in which they didn't physically touch at all (even in returning
the letters; Ophelia tossed them on the floor).

In short, the production was filled with great moments and wonderful
scenes (I think the Player King's speech on the fall of Troy was
brilliantly done with Hamlet pantomiming the part of Pyrrhyus to the
Player King's narration); the doubling of the actor who played Old
Hamlet with the Player King resulted in a wonderful moment, as Hamlet
does a long double take when the acting troupe comes on stage.  The
production seemed to me neither ground breaking nor revelatory, but it
was both enjoyable and memorable.

As for Beale's girth, that seems to me such a non-issue that I hesitate
mentioning it even to dismiss it.  Perhaps we should include an actor's
weight or body shape among the "blind casting" issues of gender and race
discussed earlier!

Barrett Fisher
Bethel College (MN)

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Bishop <
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Date:           Tuesday, 5 Jun 2001 15:05:09 -0400
Subject: 12.1359 Beale's Hamlet
Comment:        Re: SHK 12.1359 Beale's Hamlet

My favorite part of the Beale Hamlet was when the gravedigger found the
skull's jawbone and made it "speak". Something about a speaking
skull--in this case also wearing a cap--arrests the attention.

I thought the play was passionless. I had the feeling no one here
understood it well, that they were just going from scene to scene,
slogging onward. The duel scene in particular lost momentum, though
Hamlet got a little of it back in his dying moments.

I felt for the disillusioned kids Charles Weinstein described, but I was
also puzzled to hear a number of people say they enjoyed this production
so much. The night I saw it in Boston, Horatio's "You might have rhymed"
got a significant laugh, when it seemed to me the setup did not prepare
the audience to get the point of the line. In other words, the audience
did their own preparing, and were primed, and trying quite hard, to
enjoy the show.

Beale's girth was I would guess the reason why all the men were dressed
in long coats with flared skirts--they looked, especially the becrossed
Claudius, like Jesuits: Beale would not have looked good in tights. The
backstage-at-the-Antiques Roadshow set, with the characters maneuvering
among scattered trunks, and lowered chandeliers, seemed a perfunctory
attempt to be "innovative"--a favorite word of the execrable ART. The
actors did articulate decently. This was a British company well trained
in standard verse speaking. For Americans, that may be all that's
needed. But it was second or third-string Shakespeare. The Mark Rylance
Hamlet last year wasn't quite my ideal either, but it was fast moving
and very entertaining, unlike this sluggish effort.

Best wishes,
David Bishop

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Christine Gilmore <
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Date:           Wed, 6 Jun 2001 11:07:47 -0400
Subject:        Review of Hamlet

Here's the New York Observer's review of the Royal National Theatre's
and John Caird's production of "Hamlet," observing Beale's bulk,
crocodile tears, and inadolescense:

http://www.observer.com/pages/theater.asp

It is generally negative, preferring BAM's recent multicultural
production.

Christine Gilmore, MFA, MA, PhD

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