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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Wooster Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0747  Tuesday, 6 November 2007

From:		Harvey Roy Greenberg <
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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, 
inter alia

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 
particularly lame.

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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