Telling stories with imagination.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Metta likes...Hamlets

Loren O'Dair
Photograph Anna Hmmersley
This week Hamlets. Metta likes Hamlet in general - the play and the character - having done our own all-female version back in 2007, (also I assisted on Tim Carroll's production for The Factory) and in the last two weeks I've seen another two productions - the UK tour mounted by Icarus Theatre Collective, starring Metta regular Loren O'Dair, and the National Theatre production (though not with Mr Kinnear).

Interestingly though I saw both these shows at a point at which they weren't quite ready for public consumption - the Icarus production was a dress rehearsal and the National production was the understudy run.
So in some ways this blog will be less about the shows and more about particular actors. There were flaws in both productions, understandably as they were both effectively dress rehearsals, but nonetheless both productions had some stand-out performances, and while those particular performers were on-stage all thoughts of whether the show was audience-ready went out of the window.

In the Icarus Hamlet Loren absolutely shines as Ophelia - she is interesting and sparky but above all a wonderfully compelling performer, and with her Le Coq training so physically expressive. Equally brilliant is Nick Holbek who plays her brother Laertes (which I think is actually the hardest part in Hamlet because he is off-stage for two and a half hours in the middle of the play and then has to come back on in Act IV all guns blazing) - wonderfully natural (but still absolutely honouring the verse). Also their Horatio (Dani McCallum) is strong - and it was an interesting choice to cast a female Horatio and acknowledge her as such.

In the National Hamlet (understudy run) their Horatio is the best thing in it - Prasanna Puwanarajah (who plays Guildenstern in the regular show) is the wittiest Horatio I've ever seen but also again wonderfully natural and fleet of foot, both physically and in his verse speaking. To my mind the verse must be spoken quickly - particularly if, like the National, you don't cut that much - indeed Hamlet's advice to the players for the play within a play (we love a bit of meta-theatre here at Metta Theatre) still holds true:

'Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue...Suit the action to the word, the word to the action'

All names to watch for the future - and hopefully future Metta performers! A final thought on the play itself. Icarus have set the action in some pseudo-Greek world, all pillars and Greek chorus, while the National production is a contemporary (ish) surveillance state - all menacing security personnel running around talking into their sleeves - both of which work well in some places, and less well in others. But the wonder of Hamlet is that it's so robust a play that it can withstand all sorts of concepts and cuts and still the brilliance of the play shines through. I think it is probably the best play. And as I've said many times I could quite happily direct a different production of it every year for the rest of my life and still find new things in it.

1 comment: