The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.2151 Tuesday, 29 October 2002
Date: Monday, 28 Oct 2002 20:23:40 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: Re: Haunted by the Ghost in Hamlet
As the discussion has been shifted to Gertrude, SHAKSPERians (especially
those in the UK) may be interested in the (currently) London production
'Gertrude: The Cry'. (Has anyone seen it?) A review can be found at:
I also copied and pasted it below.
[From the Guardian (Friday 25 October 2002)]
Gertrude: The Cry (Riverside Studios, London)
"Fuck me," cries Gertrude, offering up a knickerless crotch as Claudius
pours poison into her sleeping husband's ear. No playwright knows better
than Howard Barker of the intimate relationship of sex and death, sin
Shakespeare's Gertrude is the quiet place that actresses after the first
flush of youth go to rest. Barker's Gertrude roars with the agony of
life. Legs up to her ears, legs that are always parted, she is shameless
and magnificent. At her husband's funeral she gives Claudius vigorous
oral sex while the court looks askance. Only her mother-in-law, who has
already lost one son to Gertrude and is about to lose another, admires
and loathes at the same time. Perhaps she sees something of herself in
Gertrude, something that is in all women but kept veiled.
This is Gertrude's tragedy, not Hamlet's. Hamlet wanders around like a
petulant schoolboy. Like all teenagers he is disgusted by evidence of
his parent's sexual activity. "Your sister smiled," he is told on the
birth of Gertrude and Claudius's daughter. "Who would not have smiled to
have escaped the foetid dungeon of my mother's womb?" he replies. Yep,
the boy's got a few problems, particularly as his friend the Duke of
Mecklenburg is intent on giving Gertrude a quick one. He gets both
kingdom and woman in the end: "Denmark is Gertrude's arse."
This is a long, knotty evening and Barker does bang on. You don't always
grasp what he is getting at, but even in the cloudier moments there is
always his staccato wit and sinuous poetry to flood over you. His play
takes its tragedy seriously and is saved from being ridiculous because
it has its own highly developed sense of the ridiculous. High style and
absurdity walk together, and the acting is to die for, which of course
most of the characters do.
Even when you are losing patience with Barker, there is something
magnificently shameless about him as a writer - just as there is about
Gertrude as a woman.
In the end he offers us the same choice as Gertrude: plunging over the
cliff of ecstasy or dying quietly in a stinking bed in a stinking
hospital. We would all choose what she chooses. It is the only moral
Until November 2. Box office: 020-8237 1111. Then touring.
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