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16 December 2010 @ 12:33 pm
NT Live Hamlet  
Thinking, as one does, about Hamlet. I still haven't had a chance to think through the NT Live broadcast beyond the scribbles I took during intermission and when I got home (and probably won't, now). I thought Rory Kinnear was quite good, but--weirdly (or maybe not so weirdly)--he tended to lose me, just a tiny bit, on the soliloquies. I don't want to be that girl who always goes, "But when David Tennant did it," but it is the most recent other Hamlet that I've seen, and that was one of the things I really loved about Tennant's performance; he made the soliloquies really feel like snatched moments of release, carefully hidden from the outside world. I feel like I can tell a lot about the tone of a Hamlet based on the first soliloquy ("O that this too, too solid flesh would melt"), whether a Hamlet starts off as a rational, furious, ironic observer, or an emotional mess--and for whatever reason, I tend to prefer the latter (though of course, any one note played monotonously is bad, and of course I don't mean that Hamlet should be constantly flinging himself into corners and sobbing; there is awareness and observation mixed in even with that brokenness). So I thought Rory Kinnear, who did the former, was really good, but I'm not sure I loved him, or grieved for him the way I do with more broken Hamlets. (But when David Tennant did it...for example, that helpless little lilt in his voice on the word "awry" during "To be or not to be," ["And enterprises of great pith and moment / With this regard their currents turn awry / And lose the name of action"] breaks my heart every time; he's so trapped, and he's always horribly aware of it, and yet there's nothing he can see his way clear to do about it.)

Also, this production cut out "Horatio, thou art e'en as just a man / As e'er my conversation coped withal..." Boo--my inner Horatio fangirl thinks this is not on.

Things I really liked, though (basically pulled from the aforementioned scribbles):

--Horatio reacted to and was horrified by the fact that Hamlet has sent Rosencrantz and Guildenstern off to their deaths, thank heavens. I have been waiting to see that for some time now. (It's not like I've seen a ton of Hamlets, I suppose--this is the fifth stage production if you count the filmed Tennant and Adrian Lester ones as well--but still.)

--the Player King was awesome. He's the first one I've heard make the bombast (or shall I say fustian?) of the Hecuba speech and The Murder of Gonzago sound natural. [Yes, I did just make a joke about words derived from Renaissance fabric terms. I am warped. You knew this.] ALSO, the same actor played the ghost as well, which is so much my favorite doubling now that I almost can't believe I never thought of it before. Hamlet is searching for father figures everywhere, and the Player King is one; having the same actor play the two gives that a wonderful resonance on stage. Also, it means that Hamlet senior dies again onstage, in front of us this time, when the Player King is poisoned. (See? AWESOME.)

--during "O what a rogue and peasant slave" Hamlet turns a spotlight on himself, which is both a concretization of what the speech itself is doing, and a way to highlight the theatricality of the soliloquy and the theatre imagery that runs throughout this part of the play.

--Speaking of which: the advice to the players worked in a slightly different key here. Usually I've seen it played either earnestly and abstractly (an encomium to the theater), or with Hamlet being That Kid who fancies himself a director and starts telling people how to do their jobs, while the players roll their eyes. Here, though, it seemed (to me, anyway) to demonstrate a real anxiety about this particular play, and it occurred to me: if the players don't get things exactly right, if they don't "hold the mirror up to nature" in just the right way, then Hamlet's experiment fails. His whole attempt at knowledge here is based on the idea that the play will reflect Claudius' crimes back to him, and that can't happen if the players don't do their jobs to the uttermost.

--This is more of a "what? what? WHAT?" than something I liked, necessarily, but: Gertrude SAW the ghost! And then just lied about it, refusing to let him back into her life to chide her.

--In the same category: Gertrude's "There is a willow grows aslant a brook" was clearly a fabrication, because we'd seen armed guards drag Ophelia offstage. Interesting, but I don't think they pushed it hard enough--Gertrude's reason for participation was so murky; how much did she actually know about how Ophelia died?
La Reine Noire: Hallareinenoire on December 16th, 2010 06:41 pm (UTC)
Ooh, Gertrude in particular sounds fascinating.

I've got tickets for the December 27 screening here.
tempestsarekind: hamlet/horatio OTPtempestsarekind on December 16th, 2010 09:52 pm (UTC)
I'm definitely glad I got tickets! The only downside is that it would be helpful to see it again. :)