HAMLET

I'm always doubtful when an actor is dubbed 'The Hamlet of his generation', particularly as no-one ever wrote it about mine! Mind you, the competition was considerable: there were ten British Princes of Denmark in 1971. I was 31, the same age as Hamlet by the end of the play. Robert Chetwyn (the director who had got me to whisper Henry V at Ipswich) persuaded me that we shouldn't tell the Olivier story of a man who couldn't make up his mind. Our Hamlet was a boy who knows exactly what has to be done but lacks the manly resources to do it. He grows up, until finally he is ready and the readiness is all. Shakespeare's heroes all go on such painful journeys to maturity. I wore pants tucked into boots and a sweater under a fringed leather jacket. We had a psychedelic, multi-faceted Ghost, reflected in the mirrors of the set. This modern-looking Hamlet didn't much appeal to the critics, which led to a fruitless correspondence with a couple of them. Critics may well be right, when they say that a performance has failed (or succeeded) but they are invariably hopeless in analysing why. One of them damned us all: 'This is a Wolfit production, without a Wolfit'. What I suppose he meant was that the ideal HAMLET would be packed with great performances and, indeed, the play could come startlingly to life if the actors playing, say, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and Fortinbras, were all talented enough to be cast as the Prince himself. That would be to realise the impossible dream - a company of equal talents.


 

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