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Home :: Archive :: 2007 :: November ::
Wooster Hamlet
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 18.0755  Friday, 9 November 2007

[1] 	From:	Larry Weiss <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 07 Nov 2007 01:03:26 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet

[2] 	From:	Robert Projansky <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 02:09:36 -0800
	Subj:	Re:SHK 18.0739 Hamlet


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Larry Weiss <
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Date:		Wednesday, 07 Nov 2007 01:03:26 -0500
Subject: 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet
Comment:	Re: SHK 18.0747 Wooster Hamlet

 >Burton had surrounded himself with second stringers for the most part,

I assume that the qualifying phrase is meant to exclude Hume Cronyn, who 
presented a very engaging Polonius.

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Robert Projansky <
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Date:		Wednesday, 7 Nov 2007 02:09:36 -0800
Subject: Hamlet
Comment:	Re:SHK 18.0739 Hamlet

First, I don't know if the assessment by the Wooster Group's Scott 
Shepherd of Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet as reported in Ben Brantley's NY 
Times review ("terrible") is of the film or just KB's performance, but 
Shepherd is wrong as to both. Branagh's Hamlet film has its flaws, but 
it's not terrible, and Branagh's performance isn't terrible either.

I haven't seen the Wooster Group's Hamlet; I live on the other side of 
the country and won't get to see it, but the NY Times online Act III, 
scene i, audio and slide show excerpt does not make me want to.

It's only an excerpt, but someone apparently thinks it's representative 
of the production, so I feel OK about inferring the entire daneosaur 
from this knuckle fragment. Unlike Branagh's Hamlet, it really does 
sound terrible. The actors -- presumably the live Wooster Groupers, not 
those shades from the Burton film -- manage to  make Act III, scene i, 
sound like a first read-through by actors who don't know the play. The 
scene is in verse and ought to sound like it, but they largely prosify 
it, do a lot of inappropriate end-stopping, and otherwise thoroughly 
unimpress. You can do it better in your head when you read Hamlet to 
yourself. But don't just take my word for it:

http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/arts/20071028_HAMLET_FEATURE/ 
index.html

If seeing The Wooster Group actors mimicking a movie behind them is a 
wonderful surreal experience, maybe it's wonderful like an opera my wife 
saw last year. She much admired the sets, staging, and costumes. "It was 
wonderful," she said, "except for the music." Well, I like the music of 
Shakespeare, and from that WG excerpt I infer that the Hamlet verse -- 
how it sounds -- was either of no importance to the director or beyond 
her competence. Also, that I'm not up for her onstage search for pottery 
shards.

Dan Venning gently says, The Wooster Group's goal isn't to put on 
Shakespeare's play, but to make a statement about theatrical art. Well, 
OK, but why use Hamlet to do that? What do this production and its 
techniques bring to Hamlet? And why do this 'onstage archaeology' dig 
over this play? Projecting the film gets you a whole lot of things: 
yesteryear, Burton glam, Dick & Liz, and lots more, all at the expense 
of the live actors. What do you get in exchange for muddying the focus 
and the sound and putting the actors in that mimicry straitjacket?

And it's not billed as "The Wooster Group's Statement About Theatrical 
Art." It's billed as Hamlet by William Shakespeare. When you do such 
things to Shakespeare I think you ought to give  appropriate warning, as 
in Charles Marowitz's "Variations on Measure  for Measure" or "The 
Shakespeare Liberation Army Enacting 13 Lessons In Bardolatry Concerning 
The Tragedy Of Macbeth Performed By The Actors Themselves With Expert 
Commentary Wherewithal And Therein", By William Shakespeare and Timothy 
Scarrott. I can see that one at the Cheeseburger Dinner Theater at the 
Eagles Lodge -- and maybe I will.

Best to all,
Bob Projansky

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