Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Wolfman (2010)

Hamlet played by Lawrence Talbot (Benicio Del Toro).

As this rather good summary notices, there are plenty of less overt parallel's between The Wolfman and Shakespeare's play (the writer is reviewing Jonathan Maberry's novelisation but the connections are still valid). But without prior warning it's still something of a surprise to be confronted by this splinter of performance with Benicio Del Toro tortuously working his way through a chunk of Yorick, skull in hand.

This is the interior of Richmond Theatre, The Green, Richmond in Surrey, southwest of London, which as this reverse shot demonstrates is a classic, old school proscenium arch house.  It's 1891, so the audience is still the black tie crowd.  Perhaps I shouldn't be too hard on Talbot's interpretation.  In 1892, Herbert Beerbohm Tree mounted his famous production of the play, pictured here, and as you can hear from this later recording, the acting style of the time was different and we might imagine Del Toro heard that as part of his research.

That's an uncredited Sam Hazeldine as Horatio (Barty Crouch Jr. in the Harry Potter films).  It's difficult to tell who the Gravedigger is.  The next scene is in the post performance party where Elizabeth Croft is credited as an Ophelia (one of her next jobs was as a Vampire Girl on Doctor Who's Vampires in Venice) and Brigette Miller as Gertrude (Emmeline Vance in the Harry Potter films).

Notice how elaborate the set is.  The production designers and set decorators are well researched.  As The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare on Stage explains, this was still the period when plays would often be shortened to make way for elaborate effects and recreating worlds on stage, the entire locale changing between scenes, rather than simply between acts or halves as is often the case now.  Often plays would be adapted into much shorter versions or spoofs like W. S. Gilbert's parody of Hamlet, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, which was first produced in 1891.

The next shot in the film is of Emily Blunt's Gwen Conliffe in one of the boxes regarding the performance.  In the Hamlet analogy, she's the Ophelia of The Wolfman.

The sequence ends with this shot from above as Hamlet regards Yorrick as actors often do. The full section of the speech is ...

"Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow
of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy: he hath
borne me on his back a thousand times; and now, how
abhorred in my imagination it is! my gorge rims at
it. Here hung those lips ..."

... the shots changing between clauses even when Talbot/Del Toro ignores the obvious pause where the exclamation point is after "imagination it is".

The scene ends on Blunt's face as he says, "Here hung those lips..." which causes us to immediately look at her lips such is the nature of editing, which is important because she has information to impart.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

More on the new Hamlet at the RSC.

The RSC has uploaded some videos related to their new production. Firstly, here's Jonathan Slinger talking about the role:

And some audience reaction:

"Absolutely stunning. Absolutely amazing."

Hamlet's Dreams:
The Robben Island Shakespeare.

One of the most curious and so most notable objects in last year's British Museum exhibition Shakespeare: staging the world was The Robben Island Bible, the hidden copy of the Alexander edition of the Complete Works which was passed around and inspired the inmates of the prison where Nelson Mandela and his ANC colleagues were held captive.  Throughout, the prisoners left their mark or signature on significant quotes or sections of the plays and in this exploration of the implications the book had for the prisoners, David Schalkwyk suggests that although their connection to the text can sometimes be overstated, its implications as an overall symbol of disobedience cannot.  The main thrust of the book compares the prisoner's experience to Hamlet, comparing quotations and memoir of inmates, Denmark being an emotional prison, with the young prince's speeches, a character's individual experience expressing a collective reality.

Hamlet's Dreams by David Schalkwyk is published by Bloomsbury and is out now.  RRP: £14.99.  ISBN: 978-1441129284.  Review copy supplied.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The Marowitz Hamlet (1969)

John Wyver at the Screen Plays project on how one of the more avant-garde interpretations of Hamlet made its way to television:
"At 10.55pm on 30 December 1969, BBC2 broadcast an edition of its regular magazine strand Late-Night Line-Up which was devoted to The Marowitz Hamlet. According to the BFI’s authoritative ScreenOnline, ‘Late-Night Line-Up discussed Charles Marowitz’s collage reinvention of the play, with filmed examples performed by the Open Space Theatre Company describes the programme.’ But what is preserved in the BBC film archive is a 59-minute fully-edited film of much of the production, including its opening and closing."
As is noted in the comments beneath, this is precisely the sort of experiment which no longer exists on television under current regimes.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jonathan Slinger on Hamlet.

Jonathan Slinger talks to Lyn Gardener at The Guardian about his upcoming appearance at the RSC:
"This is the quote that's going to hang me," he says, "but I'm going to try to achieve what people say is impossible. I want to make him a psychologically understandable Hamlet. I do honestly think that's what Shakespeare wrote: a very complex person. And I'm in a slightly win-win situation: if I achieve it, then amazing. And if I don't – and depending to what degree I don't – the worst that people will say is that it was a wholly unreasonable ambition because nobody has ever done it. It will just serve as further proof to those who say it's impossible."
Glancing across at my sidebar, I'd wonder if a few of his predecessors would take issue with that.