The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0747 Tuesday, 6 November 2007
Date: Saturday, 3 Nov 2007 23:42:32 EDT
Subject: Wooster Hamlet
I did not have a chance to read earlier posts on the Wooster Hamlet, but
I have seen the production twice, against the background of having seen
virtually every Wooster production since the group's inception at the
performing garage, as well as the original Burton production in
"theatrovision" back in 1964, also have that on tape.
The Wooster group is well-known for its deconstructionist and often
extremely controversial readings of THE COCKTAIL PARTY, THE HAIRY APE,
The latest Wooster HAMLET is, contrary to some critics, different in
many respects from the production I saw a year or so ago. I found the
reading extraordinary on each occasion, but the latest is, I think, more
'pulled together'. Did not much fancy the original. Burton had
surrounded himself with second stringers for the most part, reminding
one of the sort of touring company centered around one more or less
famous actor depicted in THE DRESSER. Alfred Drake's Claudius was
Ben Brantley said something to the effect about the Wooster production
capturing the ephemerality of great theater. The Burton/Gielguld HAMLET
was by no means great, rather more ham on rye, and I expect that the
Wooster group's intention at least one of them was not to honor Burton,
nor yet to bury him, but to defamiliarize the text, and the fustian
reading it has intermittently received since the Elizabethans.
Surrealism informs the production, and each time I was struck by its
downright eeriness at multiple levels, particularly the intermittent
excisions total or palimpsest of Burton-notably-as well as other actors.
It is amazing at the very least in its complex visual manipulations of
the Burton film, as well as the usual Wooster utilization of
sophisticated video and sonic technology elsewhere.
At any rate, the run has been extended, and I would recommend purchasing
tickets as soon as possible, if they are not already gone. I doubt if
the production would be available in DVD, and even if it were, it would
not capture the estranged power of this reading.
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