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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: March ::
Re: Mamillius' Age
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.0700  Friday, 8 March 2002

[1]     From:   Janet Costa <
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        Date:   Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 07:55:26 -0800 (PST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age

[2]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 19:35:57 -0500
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age

[3]     From:   John Marwick <
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        Date:   Saturday, 9 Mar 2002 23:51:11 +1300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Janet Costa <
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Date:           Thursday, 7 Mar 2002 07:55:26 -0800 (PST)
Subject: 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age

>Was Mamillius supposed to be disabled? Was it a wheel
>chair? Was anything done with this rather interesting idea? Was it
>abled/disabled-blind casting? Was I mistaken entirely (or
>hallucinating again)?

>At any rate, the Mamillius-actor seemed, in that production, to be a bit
>older than usual, lending some credence to the "he's as old as
>the actor playing him" view.

     Cheers,
     Karen

Yes, Mamillius was wheeled out in a Victorian cane-backed wheel chair,
down stage-left. The actor was female, and if memory serves, doubled
Perdita. The age thing implied he was an adolescent. I read it as about
12 or 13. With the doubling, it could have been meant to be 16. Nothing
was done with the idea because of the doubling. The wheelchair motif had
also appeared in Kathryn Hunter's Lear, where it was much more
effective, especially when repeated for the death of Cordelia.

     Janet

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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 >
Date:           Thursday, 07 Mar 2002 19:35:57 -0500
Subject: 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age

>At any rate, the Mamillius-actor seemed, in that production, to be a bit
>older than usual, lending some credence to the "he's as old as the actor
>playing him" view.

In which case, the Arthur in last year's King John at the Alabama
Shakespeare Festival would have been about 23 (by my guess).

Jack Heller

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           John Marwick <
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Date:           Saturday, 9 Mar 2002 23:51:11 +1300
Subject: 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age
Comment:        Re: SHK 13.0685 Re: Mamillius' Age

I saw and enjoyed greatly the 98/99 RSC/Anthony Sher production and,
yes, Mamillius was in a wheelchair. He was played by Emily Bruni - who
also played Perdita.

Ms Bruni is not particularly short so it may have been easier for her to
play Mamillius in a chair.  I found the effect of having a son who was
clearly weak and unwell to add something to the play - what may it have
meant about the relationship between Hermione and Leontes if they have
only one child who is a sickly son? - not difficult to believe that it
could be the cause of some difficulties in their marriage - and her
present pregnancy must be that much more precious - and so more terrible
if it's not actually Leontes' baby.

However, the production, including this feature was by no means
universally applauded. Paul Taylor in the Independent said "The one big
error is to make Leontes' young son, Mamillius, a pasty weakling in a
wheelchair, and to have him performed by the actress (Emily Bruni) who
goes on to play the lost and rediscovered daughter, Perdita. The little
boy needs to be robust so that his pointless death comes as a harrowing
shock, and he should not symbolically metamorphose into his sister,
because his demise has to register as a tragedy time cannot redeem."

I agree with the second point about doubling with Perdita but I found
Mamillius' weakness to make his death more beleavable.  When I directed
the play in New Zealand, I used a similar approach by giving Mamillius a
leg caliper and crutches (actually there is a reference to crutches in
the first scene which fitted quite nicely since we brought Mamillius
into the first scene between Camillo and Archidamus). However, the
doubling we used had the actor who played Mamillius also play Time - and
that seemed to work well - we started the play with Mamillius discovered
reading a large nursery rhyme book and his voice over of "A sad tale's
best for winter" - then bringing him back on at the start of the second
half (start of Act IV) as Time - played dressed in exactly the same
clothes as Mamillius but all in white so that he sort of represented
Mamillius' ghost - and finally bringing him on above looking down at the
end of the play as a reminder that not all parts of this fairy tale end
happily.

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