I was vacuuming today and thinking about Shakespeare (as you do). Thing is, I’m a bit nerdy about Shakespeare. Like I am about Doctor Who. (No link. Whatsover. Except I am a BIG FAN). Anyway….my thoughts were occasioned by a theatre outing the night before, to see Monash Shakespeare’s production of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged).”
For those who don’t know, this is a comedic take originally written in the 1980’s, which offers a compressed and witty version of all 37 plays. In the Monash production (put on by students at the university), I was impressed by the quality of the performances and the 21st century updates. It certainly made the plays accessible for those who (like my husband) thought Hamlet was a small village in Midsomer Murders.
After lots of fun and mayham, Hamlet – as Shakespeare’s greatest play – was left till last. And whilst the tone throughout was comedic, there was a serious moment, when a young cast member delivered one of the great soliloquies. Literally a hush fell – the audience (after so much laughter) suitably stunned by the poetry and emotion in those few lines.
And that’s the power of Shakespeare. Which meant (back to the vacuuming) there was plenty to think about today. I thought of all great Hamlets I had seen – some on stage and some on film. For film versions, here are my top 3:
Kozintsev’s 1964 Russian version (obligingly sub-titled). Saw this when I was 17, the school took us to a screening in Bradford (in 1977 I should add – I’m not that old). The most atmospheric version I’ve ever seen: black and white, score by Shostakovitch. If you haven’t seen it, search it out.
Ok, I’ve still got a bit of a crush on Ken (much to my husband’s disgust). Seen this version several times, well-filmed, and he wasn’t over-acting (sadly, it can happen). And while we’re on the subject of over-acting, I’ve never liked the Laurence Olivier version. Sorry, but there it is.
Saw this one only recently – National Theatre Live film of the stage play, wtih Cumberbatch in the central role. AMAZING. SEE IT. (I suppose I didn’t mention he’s my current favourite actor – maybe along with Tom Hiddleston. Ooh, and maybe Ben Wishaw).
And for Shakespeare lovers – you can see them all in “The Hollow Crown”: Ben Wishaw as Richard II, Tom Hiddleston as Henry V and Benedict Cumberbatch as Richard III.
As for the Hamlets I would have liked to have seen but haven’t: Mark Rylance (RSC 1988) and David Tennant (RSC 2008).
Have you got a favourite Shakepeare play/film/character? Or do you loathe it all (schoolroom versions have a lot to answer for). Love to hear from you!