Friday, January 29, 2010

The Play's the Thing

(Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet, photographed by James Lafayette)

I went to see Hamlet last night, and was it ever good! I hadn't seen it performed before, although I have read the play numerous times in various classes. My friend didn't know it at all, but she also enjoyed it. That's certainly one test of a good performance: we both "got" all the key points and had a great time.

Hamlet was appropriately melancholy and madcap, though perhaps a little whiny from time to time. Polonius was a colossal boob, Osric was an over-the-top fop, Ophelia was lovely and tragic, Rosencranz and Guildenstern were as interchangeable as ever, Horatio was everyone's ideal best friend, Claudius and Gertrude were cloyingly sweet on each other, and the gravediggers were hilariously witty. Good stuff, and thoroughly satisfying.

The rest of the audience was into it, too. Proof positive of that came in the final swordfight scene, Hamlet vs. Laertes. In short, in case you need a refresher, although it's supposed to be a contest, not a fight to the death, Laertes arranges not only to have an unbated blade but to dip the end in deadly poison, so it's clear he's going to kill Hamlet, one way of the other.

The fight staging was excellently done. Hamlet and Laertes mixed it up a bit in classic fencing style, and then closed to grapple each other. During that contact, Hamlet grabbed Laertes's blade, whereupon Laertes pulled the blade out, giving Hamlet the equivalent of the world's worst paper cut, right across his palm. Even discounting the poison, it looked like it hurt like hell. I couldn't help myself: I winced and let out a huge gasp of shock and sympathy . . . and so did every person in the audience. Clearly, at that point we had all forgotten it was a play.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely. I can't remember the last time I went and saw some Shakespeare....that may just have to make it onto the agenda for next summer. Then again, I really wanted to go and see a ball game and that didn't happen either.

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