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Sunday, 5 April 2015

To shout or not to...

I take every opportunity possible to watch Hamlet. Last night we saw "a radical re-imagining" modern-dress movie of the play starring Maxine Peake in the title role. I thought she was 18 it turns out she's forty. I set aside any preconceptions but I was disappointed. For the full 3 hr 30 min (inc 15 min for ice cream) she shouted, seemingly going hoarse in the process. Yes, even in that soliloquoy. And on the rare occasions she wasn't shouting she spat out words with unpleasant meanings such as "incestuous" and "whore". There was so little modulation. And because she'd shouted so much she'd nothing left when scenes arrived that might have demanded shouting.

Two worthwhile changes: Polonius was also played by a woman (as Polonius's wife), power-dressed and doing it in business-speak. This worked when she was being teased by her son, Laertes. One normally assumes P doesn't realise he's being teased; here, replies in board-room talk seem entirely legitimate.

Also, Claudius the king and The Ghost (Hamlet's dead father) are played by the same actor. Since they are supposed to be brothers it's OK.

However, long as it was it wasn't long enough. The more persuasive versions of Hamlet I've seen (Kenneth Branagh) and heard (John Gielgud, Christopher Plummer) have all gone the full 4 hr 30 min. Once you get to know the play, all cuts seem to diminish the sense.

Mind you, I'm not sure Professional Bleeder's bum would have survived the full version.

3 comments:

Avus said...

Did it for A levels many years ago and have always (oddly) enjoyed it - and agree, always the full Monty.

Avus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Roderick Robinson said...

Avus: My appetite for the play is insatiable. Since doing this post I've ordered a DVD of the Ethan Hawke version. It will be truncated of course but not as much as the Olivier version many decades ago which, among others things, did away with Rozencrantz and Guildenstern (I think).

The Hawke version will of course be American accents but I'm broad church on this and, in any case, I'm looking forward to seeing Bill Murray as Polonius. A year or two ago and much against my inclination (given his drunken anti-semitism) I saw the Mel Gibson version and was pleasantly surprised.