Friday, July 29, 2011

HAMLET - Globe on tour

Shakespeare's Globe at Corpus Christi, Cambridge

We know that Hamlet toured to a Cambridge college in Shakespeare's own day. It was usual for the text to shrink as the players moved further from the capital and the playwright – European tours sometimes gave little more than comic highlights and dumbshows.
Dominic Dromgoole's production – a brisk three hours including interval – includes more of the quartos than usual, and it was good to hear some less familiar moments – Polonius packing Reynaldo off to Paris, for instance. Not to mention the clown's catchphrases ... And the ambience of the Master's garden in Corpus, pigeons calling, distant revellers in Silver Street, St Botolph's tower in the background, was wonderfully timeless. This play especially is full of references to strolling players, and this background is emphasised by the start – the song “A-begging I will go” and the actors wandering on, changing into costume. 'Two planks and a passion' is evoked, too.
Just eight actors [who also play the music] for all these characters – the Mousetrap is particularly brilliantly imagined – only the Prince himself escapes doubling duty.
Polonius apart [an excellently wordy – and occasionally amnesiac – John Bett, who was also the Gravedigger], they all took the text at a gallop, but with no lack of clarity - “trippingly on the tongue” indeed. Amanda Hadingue's Gertrude was hard to hear at times, but I loved Jade Anouka's feisty, fun-loving Ophelia – and she was great as the Player Apprentice who's “nearer heaven”.
 Simon Armstrong was Claudius [and of course the Ghost and the Player King].
In the title role, Joshua McGuire was constantly on the move, and often very witty - I thought I caught a flash of Frankie Howerd at one point. But there was little sense that this young student's "noble mind" was tackling some of the greatest themes in theatre.
Ripon next for this fit-up, then Buxton, Worcester and eventually Helsingør, better known to us as Elsinore …

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