Thursday, May 31, 2007

Extracts from Richard E Grant's book The Wah-Wah Diaries and Martin Scorsese's film The Departed

Two different Hamlet sightings in as many days. I have of late been reading Richard E Grant's The Wah-Wah Diaries in which he describes the hair pulling exercise of making his directorial debut. On the 23 April 2004 he says:
23 April 2004

Read Hamlet - a man caught betwixt and between if ever there was one. His penultimate thoughts fir perfectly:
If it be now, 'tis not to come;
If it be not now, yet it will come; the readiness is all.
Since no man knows aught of what he leaves,
What is't to leave betimes?
Let be.
5.30pm call from Marie-Catille. The film is fully financed and start shooting on 7 June! Levitated.
This is during a moment when the film could go either way. Marie-Catille is his producers and she's been something of a nightmare to deal with and because they're not really communicating the project could collapse at any minute. But I think he sense there's an inevitability that something will happen and that its beyond his control.

Then today, watching Martin Scorsese's The Departed I noticed this during a sting operations:

COLIN turns away from the activity.

Oh, my friends are still coming.

COLIN sees QUEENAN staring at him.

We'll just say lunch tomorrow. All right, bye.

COLIN ends the call. QUEENAN is there.

The readiness is all. You know the players, call the game.

Thank you, Captain.

He gives him the clipboard, Colin goes to the work area.
I'm not sure that the sense is thematically keyed into the scene -- but it is part of a screenplay that's replete with Shakespearean allusions both in the dialogue in the whole sense of the story. Without hopefully spoiling anything it seems to run the flip side of a problem play -- instead of slipping from tragedy to comedy, the film flows inextricably the other way.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Cardenio found

Not Hamlet I know, but I read a rumour about this over the weekend and contacted the Royal Shakespeare Company's press office to see if it was hoax. Funnily enough -- it really isn't. Here is the press release:
"Cardenio: Shakespeare’s Lost Play Found

RSC Chief Associate Director, Gregory Doran, chose the opening of his production of Coriolanus at the Teatro Albeniz in Madrid as the occasion to announce the “discovery” of a lost play by William Shakespeare based on an episode in Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes. A play by Shakespeare, England’s greatest writer, based on a story by Spain’s greatest writer, Cervantes, is certainly big news, but would also be an ideal intercultural project to celebrate the Royal Shakespeare Company’s growing relationship with Spain . Last year the Company received a Gold Medal for Excellence in the Fine Arts, awarded by his majesty Juan Carlos following a recent visit by the Company with their production of The Canterbury Tales, and a highly successful season of plays from the Spanish Golden Age which played Madrid in 2004.

Cardenio – the title of this missing masterpiece, was written by Shakespeare and fellow writer John Fletcher, in 1613 after Thomas Shelton’s translation of Don Quixote appeared the previous year. It tells the story of the lunatic lover and a heroine who dresses as a shepherd boy to follow her love into the mountains – familiar terrain in the tragic-comedies of Shakespeare’s late plays.

We have evidence of the play’s performances at Court in 1613 but for some reason the play was not included in the first folio of Shakespeare’s complete works that was published in 1623 after his death. That’s not entirely surprising as Pericles was not included either nor another of Shakespeare’s collaborations with John Fletcher, The Two Noble Kinsmen.

The play surfaced when a manuscript was given to the Shakespeare editor Lewis Theobald in the early eighteenth century by John Downes, a book-keeper and prompter for the Drury Lane Theatre. Theobald adapted the play for the stage and it had a very successful run in the theatre in London. It is probable that the manuscripts were lost in a theatre fire in the early nineteenth century, but luckily we still have Theobald’s adaptation, and of course, the original source, Thomas Shelton’s 1612 translation.

Gregory Doran is busy exploring the possibilities of some sort of collaboration between Spanish and British artists in order to conduct an exploratory workshop and bring a production to the stage of Cervantes’ story of Cardenio – via William Shakespeare – of which both great authors might have been proud.
I'm excited but it's tempered with a bit of confusion. Are they actually annoncing the surfacing of Shakespeare and Fletcher's original verse or some later translation? There seems so be a skirting around that issue in the release -- and in fact it just seems like it will be a version of Theobold and Shelton's work and not actually Shakespeare at all.

The other problem I'm having that considering everything there's been no coverage of this in the media which just seems very odd to me. Google News has nothing and the wikipedia entry hasn't been updated which are usually indications that something is going on. That suggests that others are seeing the same inconsistencies I am.

Anyway, I've emailed the RSC back for a clarification and I'll keep you posted on developments.

Updated! Hmm. In all my excitement I forgot to add the link in to the source of the story which is of course the wonderful Shakespeare Geek. Incidentally I haven't heard back from the RSC press office since I asked for a clarification but I'll let you know when I do.

'Shakespeare in Production' edited by Robert Hapgood

I don't have many pet hates. There's people who get on buses and stand next to the door when the rest of the vehicle is empty. There's the fact that BBC Breakfast never leads with anything that you could actually call news. And there's when Hamlet is referred to as a good book or a great read. It’s really not - it’s a good, sorry, a great play. When it sits statically on the page, the poetry of some sections really sing, but as drama it simply doesn’t work. Although Shakespeare includes description and the soliloquies offer moments of introspection it’s difficult to reconcile as drama. Only performed does the magic hopefully occur and is the genius of the writing really expressed.

Cambridge University Press’s Shakespeare In Production series attempts to cope with that problem by presenting the play on page but within the context of performance, so that students and researchers (and fans) can get a sense of how various sections were played theatrically, comparing and contrasting the various approaches. So their version of the text is augmented across the bottom of each side by footnotes pertaining to each line describing what happened during various productions; we’re told for example, that at the top of Act IV, scene 2 when Hamlet has hidden the body of Polonius and says ‘Safely stowed’ that Richard Burton ‘briskly rubs his hands together. Stephen Dillane played the scene for its black comedy’.

With information compiled by the editor Robert Hapgood from his own observations and contemporary accounts, it’s an approach that generally works very well. Understandably, ‘to be or not to be’ provokes a mini-essay which includes musical notation to demonstrate the intonation that various actors brought to the line. For the purposes of this blog though it’s replete with spoilers - I don’t really want to know how the like of Burton and Jacobi played the prince before I’ve seen them. In addition you could imagine that an actor venturing into these pages before attacking the role for themselves would feel the ghosts of those you’ve gone before weighted down on their shoulders. The only consolation is that Hapgood isn’t afraid to include criticism were it's due, emphasizing that some previous actors have grasped their parts better than other.

The introduction perhaps provides Hapgood's best work as he provides a more chronological history of Hamlet in performance tracing a through line of Danes from Burbage through Betterton, Garrick, Kemble, Kean, Booth, Irving, Gielgood, Olivier and into Barrymore, Burton and Branagh. In meticulous detail the writer attempts to reconstruct how each of the historic actors might have played the role in these productions and how that reflected on those who came later. The most fascinating passages are those which consider the effect that playing the role had on the actor; that the best actors and those for whom it was their signature character exhaustedly put themselves into the dane to such an extent that they never got over it, Hamlet’s doubts becoming their own.

Hapgood is also keen to emphasize the shifts in emphasis and how the play has developed across the centuries from being about one lead character and a range of subordinates into much more of an ensemble, from the likes of Ophelia and Gertrude being portrayed as projections of Hamlet’s impression of them into being full fledged, psychologically distinct individuals. Such shifts seem index linked with the attitudes of the time - of course in the past century Ophelia has become a much more forthright and less submissive role and Gertrude has developed into more of a femme fatale often aware of her new husband callous tendencies instead of the mumsier figure married for her political position that may have appeared in the past.

Also threading throughout the book is some commentary on how the text has been treated through history. As Hapgood lucidly describes there have in general been five different versions of the play in the production, Quarto I (Q1), Quarto II(Q2), First Folio (F), a restoration edit and the more contemporary approach of amalgamating them all, chopped about to emphasize the interpretation and thematic interests of the director. I’ve finally understood that its in Q1 that Gertrude becomes complicit in Hamlet’s ‘madness’ wheras in the other two the change in loyalty doesn’t occur. That in Q1, ‘to be or not to be’ occurs much earlier with the implication being that Hamlet is aware that he’s being watched and play acting to give the impression that his malady is far deeper than it actually is at that point.

Overall the book confirms everything that I love about the play, it’s flexibility, that no two versions are quite the same and that its impossible to find the perfect production. Hapgood unearths a wonderful verse that expresses my feelings exactly. It’s from W. S. Gilbert’s book Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1874):

Alike for no two seasons at a time.
Sometimes he’s tall - sometimes he’s very shory -
Now with black hair - now with a flaxen wig -
Sometimes and English accent - then a French -
Then English with a strong provincial ‘burr’.
Once an American, and once a Jew -
But Danish never, take him how you will!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

He's such an emo...

If the Globe Theater had an internet message board.: "Oh, please, the plot of Hamlet makes no fucking sense. There's a ghost and incest and an army on the border, yet they have time to fart around with stupid little plays that do NOTHING to advance the story? It's stupid. And he clearly killed Rozencrantz and Guildenstern because of his anti-fun agenda, as has already been noted." [via]

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Can I have an 'H', please Bob?

The title on this ebay sale says everything really:


This piece of television history is yours for just £25-. Assuming you can get to West Wales to pick it up. Says the seller:

"Originally commissioned for the ITV set of the popular 80’s TV gameshow with Bob Holness, “Blockbusters” After starring in the studio gameshow set, they spent a long period of time decorating the Lenton Lane ITV studios, in the cafĂ© and high up on the scene dock walls. They came into private ownership last year after Carlton closed the Lenton Lane Studios in a unbelievable and saddening fit of “account’s red mist.” (The accountants then ran amok and also closed Tyne Tees as well as Meridian, both superb, irreplaceable and famous studio facilities.)"

And that's Blockbusters.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

12 Marc Culwick

Hamlet played by Marc Culwick
Directed by Michael Croft

Surprisingly, the moment when I really began to understand what Shakespeare was trying to do wasn’t during Hamlet but Measure for Measure. I was watching the BBC television version from the eighties and it had reached the fourth scene of act two. Angelo, a hitherto emotionless logical character (think Star Trek’s Spock in his bearded mirror universe version) has fallen in lust with a nun, Isabella, whose brother he’s condemned to death for making a baby outside of wedlock. He gives a speech in which he slowly comes to terms with these feels and decides what he’s going to do about it.

A young Tim Piggot-Smith plays it impeccably in that production and for the first time I understood that Will was writing about real human emotions, something I’d missed during the remote classroom readings that I’d sat through beforehand. I wasn’t a fan yet, but I completely related to Angelo in this moment, especially since I was dealing with similar emotions myself during these post-puberty years, which were a history of unattainable girls who I could even conceive of approaching. Luckily I didn’t follow his lead because, y’know, that would have been bad.

The point I’m trying to make is that Shakespeare works best in performance and the best way to inspire kids to enjoy is work is to put a really good, really accessible production in front of them, literate, clear and filled with the kind of passion and emotion that they might find in the typical movie and soap opera. That version of Measure for Measure has bags of that (it won a few awards) as did Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet. The problem is that you can’t really plan for it. You can certainly try, but if just one of the elements is missing or not quite right you’re wasting your time.

The National Youth Theatre of Great Britain in Michael Croft’s production of Hamlet (to give its full title) is one of these attempts. This is a video published in 1984 by Schofield and Sims video designed, according to the box, ‘for use in schools, educational institutions and privately at home’. What this means is that the viewer is presented with the bare bones of the plot, whole speeches curtailed to the minimum, and a narrative shrunk to fit into just eighty minutes. The guts of the story are narrated and explained by Martin Jarvis, who appears between scenes dressed in a brown corduroy jacket sitting on a dirty orange armchair.

The effect reminds me of the treatment the half finished Doctor Who story Shada got on video were Tom Baker featured to talk the viewer through the bits that went unfilmed because of industrial action. It’s pretty sympathetically done and Jarvis is an excellent presenter and there is wonderful moment at the opening when he remembers his own time with the youth theatre. It’s just a bit frustrating when he says things like ‘and then there’s a very famous speech from Fortinbras about this…’ you can tell the purpose is to force the viewer to go and actually pick up a copy of the play to fill in the gap.

It’s all very noble then but unfortunately it doesn’t really work. This whole enterprise has been produced under the impression that its audience simply can’t be bothered to sit through a complete production of the play and would much rather have this garroted version instead. It is literally Shakespeare without the apparent boring bits. They might as well have stuck a label on the front that says: ‘For people who don’t have a couple more hours to sit through the whole thing’. It might have helped if the cuts hadn’t been quite so peculiar, but what’s the point in dropping a classic such as Polonius’s advice to Laertes yet leaving in the unfunny business with Osric? The emotional heart of the play has been cut out.

The other problem is the production itself, which seems designed to fulfill all of the prejudices that potential students have of what it might look like. The costumes are all faux-Elizabethan for a start and all of the young actors affect RC accents that are just silly. Frankly if this had been my first introduction to the play or indeed Shakespeare, you wouldn’t be reading this blog as it does everything wrong that the BBC Shakespeare, Luhrmann and indeed the off the ground show I saw a couple of weeks ago did so right. If the tape was produced to try and make the thing accessible to the uninterested they’ll continue to be uninterested.

Marc Culwick’s central performance doesn’t help. He adopts a shouty mad gurning approach which divorces the viewer from the character. More often than not he seems to be reacting to vocal cues and never appears to be listening to the other characters – there’s little chemistry between them and him which amongst other things makes a nonsense of why Ophelia would ever fall for him. About the only time this understandable is during the Ghost scene when he’s obviously been filmed separately from the other actor who’s appearing via the magic of wizzo mid-Eighties video effects.

There are still some solid performances though. The standout is obviously Nathaniel (call me Nat) Parker as a devilish Claudius who steals all of his scenes and in hindsight obviously looks destined to have a great career. His stand out scene is when the new King seeks penitence, his magnetic eyes breaking the fourth wall as he seems to be asking the viewer for their forgiveness. You can only imagine how brilliant his Hamlet might have been. Rachel Bell’s Ophelia works too, injecting a darkness right from the beginning which rationalizes the decent into madness perfectly.

If the tape fails as an literature education tool it gains a novelty value because of the section that appears at the end of the production in which Ron Daniels (pictured), a director with the RSC, works the young actors through some of the scenes and situations redirecting their work. Obviously in hindsight its fun to see the kinds of fashions a young actor in the mid-Eighties might wear for these kinds of things (The The t-shirts and bright red leggings) and to see which of them are thesps ™ waiting for their career and which might be doing it for extra credit.

But, the real curiosity is seeing how some of these performances, so stilted during the main production suddenly gain nuances and depth. Daniels’s general message to them is to really think about their words and really understand their import. He interrupts, he asks them to repeat some things and slowly they all, Culwick in particular, begin to look and sound more like the characters they’re supposed to be rather than actors working through lines. For example, he has Culwick play Hamlet’s greetings with Horatio and Marcellus, then Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in quick succession, teasing out that usually missed notion that he’s genuinely pleased to see the former, a confident, but suspicious of the latter two whom he should be question as to their motive. That often played as Hamlet teasing them, but Daniels’s idea is that they he should be putting them on the spot and that seems right too.

Watching that band of actors, their whole careers in front of them, I wondered what they did next. Nat Parker (Claudius) is easy; as well as turning up in the Zefrelli film as Laertes he’s had a steady career in character roles before hitting the prime time as Inspector Thomas Lynley, in the BBC television series based on the novels by Elizabeth George. I jotted down everyone else in the cast list and with the help of the wikipedia, found that only a handful went on to become the kind of people who have profiles on the wikipedia.

Marc Culwick (Hamlet) is ‘married with three children and currently works as a Theatre Studies teacher in Devon, England. As a teacher he is considered by his students to be truly inspirational, and has successfully directed several school musicals and co-directed several Shakespeare pieces.’ Good for him. I wonder if he’s ever shown his students this video and what they thought. It’s important to remember, should any of them be googling that all of the above is just an opinion – I could have simply misread what I saw.

Rachel Bell (Ophelia) ‘now works in theatre and as a teacher for an English boarding school. Previously appeared as Margaret Holmes in Grange Hill (1997-2002); Edith Pilchester in The Darling Buds of May (1991-1993); and Louise, the overbearing chair of the divorcee support group in Dear John (1986-1987). She also appeared in the Doctor Who story The Happiness Patrol (1988) and the Only Fools and Horses episode "To Hull and Back" (1985).’ She was in The Happiness Patrol with the pink hair and everything?

Lloyd Owen (Ghost) ‘is best known for playing Paul Bowman-MacDonald in the BBC television series Monarch of the Glen (2002-2005), and for his portrayal of Indiana's father Dr. Henry Jones Sr. in The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (1992-1999). He recently played the role of solicitor William Heelis in the film Miss Potter (2006).’

Jonathan Cake (Lucianus) ‘has worked on various TV programs and series. His most notable roles include Oswald Mosley in Mosley, 'Tyrannus' in the TV epic Empire and Dr. Malcolm Bowers in the NBC TV series Inconceivable. In summer 2006, he played the title role in the Shakespeare's Globe Theater's production of ‘Coriolanus’. He is married to American actress Julianne Nicholson.’ Lucky sod – and not a bad career trajectory. I wondered what his reaction might have been if he’d learnt that his bit part in an NYT production would eventually lead to a title role in a re-created Globe Theatre.

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.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

09 Update!.

I found some copies of my old school magazine, The Squirrel the other day and what should I find on page 36 on the 1993 issue but this article about number nine on my list:
In the depths of winter when people are overcoming those 'post-panto blues', a notice was posted on the Dramatic Society notice board - 'HAMLET-AUDITION'. These were held, the majority of the cast decided upon and the scripts dished out for the lines to be leant for the New Year.

Back in school after the holiday few lines had been learnt, but Mr. Gleave, our dedicated director, started rehearsals nevertheless. These always followed the same format: Tracy Owens, the valiant production assistant would sit herself at the front of the hall, place her script on her lap and smile intelligently up at the stage. Meanwhile, at the back of the hall, Mr. Gleave would perform his own full-blooded interpretation of Shakespeare's hallowed script for us, the aspiring actors, to attempt to reproduce up on stage.

After a couple of weeks we were making very slow progress. Movements were still being mapped out on stage, Mr. Gleave could not find the 'right' Laertes and still lines had not been mastered. Not exactly the best start to any top-class production.

Spring half-term come and went , and we were still struggling through the final scenes of the play. Rosencrantz, the lovely Alankar Sharma, was continually late for rehearsals and Polonius, Ricky Morton, still knew few of his lines. But, despite these problems some parts of the production were improving. The set was beginning to take shape under the steady guidance of Mr. Preston and Steven Simpson; and the cast itself, was also starting to get its act together; most notably Hamlet (the inspiring Merfyn Cave), who had mastered his soliloquies and was becoming increasingly impressive in the lead role.

The final week of rehearsals arrived and the tension was mounting; would we be ready in time? The lighting had been installed, the set was on the verse of completion and the sound had finally got its cocks to crow; all that was needed was the actors. Well, after our mighty rehearsals under the surprisingly calm influence of Mr. Gleave, we were at last starting to look like a true Blue Coat production.

The Friday before the week of the play a small band of the cast and crew kindly accompanied by Mr and Mrs Halton, took a rest from their hectic schedule to take a trip down to Stratford to see how good Kenneth Branagh & Co. really were. After four and a half hours in the theatre the general consensus was that they were excellent - but not a patch on us (though we would not mind the money) and we returned to Liverpool with some fresh enthusiasm).

On arriving at school on the Sunday for the dress rehearsal, the male contingent in the cast was distraught to discover that their costumes entailed the wearing of tights (some of which were the most putrid shade of orange, green and blue). This being a new experience for most of us, we required instruction in the art of putting them on from those skilled seamstresses, Mrs. Harcombe and Mrs. Holiday, not to mention the actresses of the play. When the laughs over our attire had died down (some of the girl's headgear was also amusing), we began. The Sunday afternoon dragged on, because Mr. Gleave's tireless striving after perfection, with the majority of the problem rearing their ugly heads in the final scene. But, we managed to leave just before darkness with most people quietly confident of a successful production.

The next day, the problem scenes were attended to, so that their standard was on par with the rest of the first-rate production, and so we were ready(?) for the opening night and the show to begin. After some final encouraging words from Mr. Gleave, we were up on the stage in front of the light and an audience acting our hearts out. Unfortunately that first night had too many faults, including a personal one of waiting on top of the battlements of a Danish castle in the freezing cold for what seemed like hours, for a ghost to appear. But the true professional approach of everyone involved meant that these weaknesses quickly disappeared and by Friday night we had reached perfection!

It just remains for me, the honourable Horatio to thank Mr. Preston for his never-ending efforts; the stage, lighting and sound crews; communications; props; make-up; our seamstresses' special effects; and the large group of dedicated teachers, without whom it would never have been. And finally, the inimitable Mr. Gleave, whose dedication and perseverance turned a group of sixth formers into a company of Thespians with a production to remember.

It's a wonderful piece and certainly fills in many of the gaps in my memory. I love the detail of some of the production attending Branagh's 1992 RSC production, the precursor to the film and the indignation at having to wear tights.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Branagh Hamlet coming to DVD

This will please some regular readers. Movie Web have news that a Region One dvd release is coming in August -- and on two discs which means that the bit-rate should be high enough to do justice to the 70mm photography. The details are as follows:
Hamlet 2-Disc Special Edition (1996):

- Running Time: 242 minutes
- Color
- Rating: PG-13
- Audio: Soundtrack remastered in Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French and Spanish subtitles. (feature film only)

In this first-ever full-text film of Shakespeare's greatest work, nominated for 4 Academy Awards®, the power surges through every scene. The timeless tale of murder, corruption and revenge is reset in an opulent 19th-century world, using sprawling Blenheim Palace as Elsinore with much of the action staged in shimmering mirrored and gold-filled interiors. The luminous cast includes actor/director Kenneth Branagh, Kate Winslet, Derek Jacobi, Julie Christie, Robin Williams, Jack Lemmon, Billy Crystal and Charlton Heston.

The excitement of the Bard's words and Branagh's adventurous filmmaking style lift the story from its often shadowy ambience to fully-lit pageantry and rage. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle said, "In the 80 years that works of world literature have been adapted for the screen, few filmmakers have attempted so much and with such success."

DVD Features:
- Introduction by director/star Kenneth Branagh
- Commentary by Kenneth Branagh and Shakespeare scholar Russell Jackson
- Featurette To Be on Camera: A History with Hamlet
- 1996 Cannes Film Festival promo
The extras aren't of the order of Lord of the Rings but with over four hours to chat, Ken and Russell will probably cover much of the ground. The 'To Be On Camera' featurette is the same one that appeared on its own tape accompanying the film on its original vhs release and although it is alright, it's not a patch on any of the BBC documentaries that turned up around the cinema release. Perhaps when the UK release drifts around they might appear as exclusive items. The package has a reasonable price of $19.97 which'll probably double in region two.

For the really interested, it's also appearing as part of a boxset, The Shakespeare Collection with Max Reinhardt's A Midsummer Night's Dream (with James Cagney as Bottom!), Larry Olivier's Othello and MGM's Romeo and Juliet - none of which have anything in common other than the obvious and that their rights are now owned by Warner Brothers. Still excellent value at just under sixty dollars. [via]