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Re: last night's Hamlet, since so many of you want to know.
Le Mont
The show is playing on the C +1 stage, and it's a joint endeavor between Two Day Productions and More Matter With Less Art.

The subtitle should've been "Hamlet With Lots of Sharp Things!"

Now, your reaction to this is, I'm sure, "But there are usually a lot of sharp things in your average production of Hamlet." And in so saying, you would be right. However, this production has so many exposed knife-blades dangling at people's belts that you actually physically recoil when they take falls, because you're afraid said knives are going to plunge right into their guts. The steam-punk aspect is really only in the costuming and stage-dressing; there are large steamer trunks piled at intervals with oddments sitting all over them (an old brass telescope, a gramophone, magnifying glasses, yellowing scraps of paper from ancient books, etc.) As to why Hamlet wears a set of aviator's goggles shoved up on top of his head throughout, one really has no clue. The overall dress aesthetic seems to be loose Victorian/Edwardian with flashes of Tim Burton's classic black-and-white stripes (in the Players, all three of them, which I actually found quite charming). The most inexplicable choice, it must be said, is Polonius looking as if he's stepped out of The Jungle Book.

First, let me say that this is a severely cut-down script. Entire large scenes have been removed: the opening on the battlements with Horatio and the soldiers, the dialogue between Polonius and Laertes upon his departure for France, the full version of the Players' arrival wherein Hamlet recites a speech followed by the Player King reciting a speech, and so on. That said, the cuts are judicious ones: the bare-bones of the show's structure and plot stay in place quite admirably. Horatio's lines don't suffer much, for which I was thankful.

Hamlet: strong, piercing stage presence. However, he only had two settings: vaguely snarky and skittishly frantic. That said, the actor has an excellent speaking voice and subtle nuance in the moments when he's not speaking. Actually, that's at the heart of what saves his performance; the eye contact between Hamlet and Horatio was really exemplary. You believe that you're seeing two old, close friends moving through a difficult situation together. It's striking, how they manage to move and react in seemingly unintentional unison to various interruptions, most notably when Claudius, Gertrude, and Laertes interrupt their final conversation before the duel. The two of them whirl around in identical startled surprise. It made my heart clench to see such a private moment intruded upon so unexpectedly.

The show ends with Horatio holding his dying friend: "Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest" is the last thing we hear before the lights go down. There is no mention of Fortinbras; his thread has been completely cut. I find some delicious irony in the fact that the arras through which Polonius is stabbed is nothing less than a flag of Denmark that's draped from one of the stacks of steamer trunks. Gertrude is a bit shrill, but by the end, she's going slightly mad herself, the portrayal of which is commendable. She begins to exhibit difficulty in speaking, adding an extra dimension to the horrors she's describing (particularly to Laertes re: Ophelia's drowning). Oh, and the Gravedigger (same actor as the King's Ghost) with a too-earnest West Country accent? Kind of priceless!

Claudius and the Players, though, were my chief delights. I've never seen Claudius portrayed in such a way that you can tell he fears Hamlet more than he fears the damnation that awaits his soul. At the same time, he's stately and controlled, which makes for a nice, paradoxical dichotomy. There are only three players, presumably the husband, wife, and their son. The Mousetrap was staged to a background of gorgeous, melancholy strings that reminded me of some confluence of Apocalyptica, Sigur Rós, and Rasputina. And actually, I was sorry that the actors portraying the players were not used to any greater extent: they were three of the strongest onstage. Although the female player did deliver the message from Hamlet to Horatio, which gave me a bit of a secret thrill (owing to something I wrote recently, but never mind that). The King's Ghost was just creepy enough: one eye paled with the use of a contact lens, barefoot, dressed all in white military uniform, singed up the right side as if to show the purgatorial torments he's endured.

Getting back to the issue of sharp things: the rapier duel was rather recklessly choreographed, and one of the women sitting in the side-front row actually got a tap on the leg. Those of us sitting in the front row, center, had even more to fear. I worry that someone will take it in the eye, and I'm not joking about that. All else aside, the deaths by poison were slightly more convincing than most I've seen. The twitching and all-around discomfort were decently carried off. Hamlet dies with his eyes wide open, staring up at Horatio. Points for fervor. I hope none of them got cut on the shattered glass, though!

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Sounds well worth a look.

*is sadly not anywhere near Edinburgh*

Well, it plays there till the end of the month :)

(Deleted comment)
Heh, maybe. He's clever enough. Probably cleverer.

Sounds intriguing, despite or in spite the cuts. I'll assume Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were MIA also?

Nope, they were very much present!

Sounds like a fun production! Aside from the risk of imminent death, of course . . . but maybe that just adds to the immediacy?

Ooh, that sounds really interesting! Thanks for sharing :)

If any photos emerge, I'll link to them!

As to why Hamlet wears a set of aviator's goggles shoved up on top of his head throughout, one really has no clue.
*giggle* The costuming may have proved distracting...

It does sound like a lovely production--especially with the cut of Fortinbras (which is sometimes a bit irksome, to be honest).

Don't you wish you could piece together the best aspects of the Hamlets you've seen into one? :)

As always, thanks for reviewing and sharing!

My dream is to direct a production.

That would be amazing! And something I would definitely make a trip to come and see!

Hamlet dies with his eyes wide open, staring up at Horatio.

Sounds good. *g*

It was rather striking.

That sounds like a pretty powerful staging, all told. The tandem movements, the dichotomous portrayal of Claudius...the visual design of the Ghost...ooooooh.

For all that it lacked a certain polish, yes, it was powerful.

Thanks for posting! I always like reading about productions of Hamlet, especially since I've seen so few (er, one) of them.

And yay! for Hamlet and Horatio really looking like friends. I would have been worried that Horatio's lines would have been cut, too. :)

People often overlook how important it is that Hamlet is far closer to Horatio than to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Nothing will cheese me off more quickly than a production that assumes Horatio is somehow second fiddle to those two.

I can't even picture that, though doubtless that's only because I've only seen Hamlet once in the theatre. (Plans are afoot to rectify this in November, though!) I mean, hello, Hamlet has shut himself from pretty much *everyone* in his life, yet he still tells Horatio everything! The contrast is even more apparent when you *see* how he actually deals with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.


Thanks for a great description of a show I will be unable to see, since I live in the states. I really appreciated the Horatio info as well. I'm glad that their friendship was portrayed accurately and clearly.

I'm always annoyed at productions that seem to imply Hamlet is closer to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern than he is to Horatio. Point = MISSED. So, thankfully, that wasn't the case here.

Closer to R & G!? Blasphemy. :)

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