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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: July ::
Hamlet Q1 in Performance
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0612  Monday, 2 July 2006

From: 		Chris Whatmore <
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Date: 		Sunday, 2 Jul 2006 17:35:32 +0100
Subject: 	Hamlet Q1 in Performance

List members may be interested to note that a (rare?) run of 
professional performances of the First/Bad Quarto of Hamlet is due to 
start at the Festival Theatre in Pitlochry, Scotland on August 23rd as 
part of their "Questions of Power" season. It will play in repertory 
once or twice a week from that date, with the final performance on 
October 19th. Billed as *Hamlet: The Actors' Cut*, the production will 
be the first time that Shakespeare has been staged at  Pitlochry since 1983.

While on holiday there last week, I tried without success to elicit 
further information direct from theatre staff, but the following 
extracts from the printed publicity and 2006 Season Programme will give 
a flavour of what's in store. While SHAKSPERians might question what 
appears to be the principal motive for choosing Q1- i.e. that  the more 
familiar texts are too long and boring - it is surely to  Pitlochry's 
credit that they should choose this rarely heard version  of the play 
rather than abridging a more conventional script.

"Two years after the original 1601 (sic) production of Hamlet, some of 
Shakespeare's own actors published a version now known as the First 
Quarto. Not the revered, four-and-a-half hour epic we are familiar with 
today, but something half its length, fresh, fast, accessible, full of 
changed, half-remembered lines, differently named characters - and 
missing some of the most famous soliloquies in theatre history..."

"Possibly a version used for touring, this text uses only those 
elements of the longer play which Shakespeare's actors thought worked 
best - which is why we've called it *The Actors' Cut*."

"Dynamic and cut to the bone, this is Shakespeare's greatest tragedy 
reinvented as a crowd-pleasing thriller."

"...Heminge and Condell, the editors of the First Folio, decided to 
print neither of the two Quartos but instead a hitherto unpublished 
version, perhaps the acting version with which they were most familiar. 
This opened up a can of editorial worms. Later editors began to combine 
what they believed to be the best of the two good versions (Folio and 
Q2), and it is now recognised that their conflations have constructed an 
entirely imaginary Hamlet, an incoherent Hamlet which Shakespeare 
neither wrote nor even envisaged.  In other words, we have a Hamlet who 
is more confused than Shakespeare intended him to be. The most recent 
scholar to have  published on this textual quagmire (Professor James 
Shapiro in *1599:  A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare*) looks 
forward to a time  when Hamlet's head will be cleared of some of the 
ambiguities and  indecisions that reflect editorial rather than 
psychological,  theatrical or authorial muddles. It looks like his wish 
will be fulfilled in Pitlochry this year."

"[Audiences] will hopefully gain a new respect for *The Actors' Cut*  - 
a reconstruction with an actor's sense of what works well on stage  - 
and will appreciate not having to sit through four hours or more of 
'pure' Shakespeare..."

Well, I personally have sat through far too many hours of 'pure' 
Shakespeare to pass up this opportunity to try the 'crowd-pleasing' 
version, and I shall certainly be returning to Pitlochry in the autumn 
to catch it. Anyone else interested? I might add that  Pitlochry is a 
wonderful place to stay for a few days if you like  lochs, glens and 
other stunning Highland scenery, and would be happy  to discuss local 
sights, eating places and extra-curricular visits  off-list with anyone 
thinking of coming. (Birnam Wood and Dunsinnan Hill, for example, are 
just down the road, although *The Macbeth  Experience* in nearby 
Bankfoot has now sadly closed.)

For performance dates and other details, your best bet is the Pitlochry 
Festival Theatre web site at http://www.pitlochry.org.uk

Chris Whatmore

[Editor's Note: I have an essay about my experiment of reediting the BBC 
Hamlet following the Q1 scene structure: "Reformatting Hamlet: Creating 
a Q1 Hamlet for Television." <i>Shakespeare Yearbook</I> 8 (1997): 
370-82. Anyone interested can find a early draft at 
<http://www.shaksper.net/archives/files/reformat.hamlet.html>.]

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