Friday, May 18, 2007

11 Carl Wharton

Hamlet played by Carl Wharton
Directed by Ian Karl Moore

Regular readers might remember I wrote last year some time about meeting someone called Claire Jones on the bus and telling them how much I'd loved their portrayal of Ophelia in a production of Hamlet ten years before. It was in a production by the Black Box Theatre Company at the Unity Theatre some time between 1997 and 1998.

To explain how I could possibly remember something like that, Claire was a friend of a friend and I'd actually gone to the production with another friend of that friend, because the friend didn't want to go with her. If you see what I mean. I've confused myself with that sentence. Feel free to email for more details if you too are confused. But I was going anyway because, ironically now that I'd left university I was even more interested in Shakespeare's work than I have been at school and productions were and still are pretty rare in Liverpool.

Looking at the cast list this was a pretty pared down version of the story - no Fortinbras for example and a single gravedigger. It was pacey. That was more than likely because of the space - this was in the smaller of the two auditoriums at the Unity, the studio. The set was minimalist too, I think everything was done with light - I remember lots of deep reds and blues being thrown again the black curtains at the back. Sorry that my recollections are so hazy but I was still trying to get a grasp on the story. Plus I quite liked the girl I was out with and pretty nervous.

But what I do remember is Claire Jones' Ophelia. I recall thinking at the time that she was acting everyone else off the stage. I'm not sure I've seen Ophelia's madness moments rendered as intelligently many times since; a tour-de-force as she shuffled about in her bare feet passing flowers around. It was that night I began to construct my fantasy cast for a production pegging her permanently for the role and when I later saw Kate Winslet in the Branagh film it looked like she'd cribbed from Claire. I think or know that I would still have remembered her performance even if she hadn't been a friend of a friend. Totally captivating.

In the way my mind works though, my Claire memories have rather overshadowed the rest of the cast. I can't tell you how good Carl Wharton was as Hamlet, I simply don't know. Does that mean he and this production doesn't count for the purposes of this adventure? Since it's my journey and I'm making the rules I've decided not. The spirit of this thing is that I should be able to say something about each of these quasi-Danes. So the thing I can say about Wharton's Hamlet is that wore Ophelia the trousers in that production.

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