Friday, 11 December 2009

Exploring Hamlet...

Another very busy week, hence the lightness of blogging.

In the day I've been working with the legend that is Ian Rickson, along with some other actors, on Hamlet and in the evenings I have been overseeing a showcase at the Soho Theatre of actors I have been teaching for some time and that I directed/wrote some bits of it.


It has been a most creative, rewarding and demanding week and today is the first day I have had to let the head stop spinning and to reflect upon it.

I suppose the easiest bit to process is the showcase as being a director, to me, is far less nerve wracking than being up there myself acting. Of course, I live vicariously through the actors and duck and weave every moment with them but I also give up a lot of the responsibility to them, my job was done a while back, they have to seal the deal, to finish it all off. And that they did, to a man/woman and I am very proud of every single one of them and my own personal adventures with Hamlet this week will feed into their learning for next year.

So onto Hamlet...

Far harder to summarise really, words like: inspirational, moving, confusing, challenging and angry as hell, only scratch the surface of how working on the play for some 8 hours a day has been like. But it has made a most profound impact upon me because not only am I going to be teaching it to my students but my appetite has been wetted for more journeys into Shakespeare's pantheon.

I am not a huge Shakespeare fan or expert, having only done it once as an actor and although I certainly respect many of the plays (with King Lear as one of my favourites of all time, indeed, my dream is to play King Lear when I am old enough), I have kept a wide berth of Hamlet, as I prefer the obscurer texts or the more difficult ones, like Titus Andronicus and The Two Noble Kinsmen.

It was however, amazing, partly I suppose in getting to work with Ian Rickson, who is a man I am determined to work with in the future, he is a pivotal figure in British Theatre and shared many of his working techniques with us as well as a healthy sceptical attitude towards the play itself.

Oddly, not being a scholar or a huge fan, I found myself as a defender of the text in its most original sense and trying to fight the corner of ideas like having a ghost rather than a more contemporary take on what the ghost could be, or too much interpretation and guess work on the text (the idea being it made more problems than solutions) and the idea that Hamlet is not mad at all. By no means new ideas but I didn't think I'll feel so strongly about it and be the cheerleader for those concepts.

I know it sounds thick but it really is a very, very exceptional play and I realise now I'd given it short shrift. I am always obsessed with father-son narratives and the ghost of a great father dead is so very present, that search for a father's love and approval, with all the complexities of the father-son journey so painfully and powerfully rendered.

I cannot wait to work on it with my students and see them connect with an essential and breathtaking narrative and world of grief. I also hope myself one day to be involved in a top quality production of Hamlet and put all the work of the last week into sharper focus and direct practice. How invigorating!

On that note, I found this today, I think it is brilliant and lovely and I dedicate it to my wondrous Eva-Jane, who was outstanding in the showcase and even though I had to turn away because I feared her performance would break my heart it was so human, you are also the new Jennifer Aniston according to one casting director. How cool is that?


  1. I always hold dear the words my English teacher had to say:

    "There is no substitute for the text..."

    I was forced to direct a play once. It was the play that I wrote. I was seventeen at the time and two music students asked me to write the plot to a musical that they had written songs for. I duly delivered, and next thing I know there's half a page in the local rag telling how these two wrote this play - no mention of yours truly. I kicked up a stink about it (as all ripped off writers do) and for my penance was forced to direct it. It was one of the most hateful things I've ever done because I hated them, I hated the play, I hated the actors and I hated myself for being bossed around to do it. This is prolly why I have such disregard for the performing arts...

  2. Sounds like you re having a blast with the workshopping.

    As for the uke player. How does he make that instrument look so easy? I can't handle the strange tuning.

  3. Darren:

    A typical and wonderfully misanthropic story from you comrade!


    Indeed but it is over now which is a shame and yes, the little dude has some serious skills.


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