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Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Hamlet (Greenwich Playhouse) 
25th-Sep-2011 06:51 pm
Skullavatar
Not usually one to miss a Hamlet, I'm not planning on going to see the impressionist Michael Sheen's take at the Young Vic (will he do it as David Frost? Will he do it as Tony Blair? [that's my guess] I'm only really interested if he does it as Kenneth Williams.) I did, however, stay loyal to my local theatres and see the Greenwich Playhouse's second take on the play: Having seen Bruce Jamieson's original production there in 2000, a domestic Hamlet that was impressively clearly told, and which had my theatre companion, unfamiliar with the play until then, gripped. Unfortunately it might have been better if I'd kept it as a pleasant memory instead of returning eleven years on, when Jamieson returns both as director and Claudius. It says here. I kinda have to take the cast list's word for it that the sound he was making was indeed Claudius' dialogue.

Once again a domestic version that edits out the politics (I don't have a problem with this, it works particularly well on a small stage) this also edits out the opening scene as well as seemingly random lines along the way. Cutting the play down to a playable length seems to have been viewed as a challenge rather than an opportunity to give the production its own identity (it kinda doesn't have one) and it comes in at under two and a half hours: An hour in the play-within-a-play's already been and gone. It's also a very old-fashioned production, not just in style but in some sometimes unpleasant attitudes: Having Osric (Kevin Millington) played as flamboyantly gay is a reasonable enough take; having Hamlet react by doing *limp wrist gesture* on his arrival is just unneccessary (and makes you glad the fucker's about to get what's coming to him.)

Robin Holden is possibly trying to play Hamlet as world-weary, but he comes across as bored. Since the opening scene has been cut, his being told by Horatio about his father's ghost is the first we hear about it as well, and maybe I'm being fussy but I'd have liked him to have reacted to the news. I don't mind how, just a reaction of some sort. I've been more taken aback by X Factor results than he is at finding out his dead dad's been roaming the battlements. Maybe if Horatio had mentioned that the ghost (former local news reporter Christopher Peacock¹) was wearing a wedding dress and blue lipstick, he might have given more of a shit. The women are the only ones who manage to salvage a bit of dignity, Elana Martin a decent enough Ophelia (even if the rushed nature of the production means her mad scene feels completely unearned) and Jane Stanton's main problem as Gertrude being that she looks slightly younger than her son.

But the cuts were the most problematic thing for me. Some of them are huge and sweeping, with some speeches (including "To be or not to be") also moved around in order, but some of the little ones are so bizarre and nonsensical I genuinely don't know if they're actually cuts that were made, or the actors forgetting their lines. For instance why even bother to keep "The funeral baked meats Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables" if you're going to cut the "Thrift, thrift Horatio!" that precedes it? It's a darkly cynical joke, not a handy Nigella tip. Later, why keep Hamlet telling Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Denmark's a prison, if he's not then going to expand on the thought and explain it with the "bounded in a nutshell" speech?

Speaking of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Jamieson does repeat something I remembered from his 2000 production, making the duo (Kevin Millington and Andrew Leishman) slimy, openly sycophantic and sinister. Which does do the trick of making them stand out more than they sometimes do, but has the downside of not making much sense.² Hamlet saying he's going to fake his madness is cut, which I could have taken as a choice to imply the madness is real if Holden had actually played madness at all, as opposed to just "shoutiness." At the end, as Hamlet lies dying and making his final speech, Horatio (Darren Stamford) basically leaves him to die on his own and wanders off to have a look round the other bodies and see if anything more interesting is going on. I know how he felt.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is booking until the 9th of October at Greenwich Playhouse.

¹he used to be called simply Chris Peacock, until he found out viewers liked to refer to him as Crispy Cock

²who in their right mind would employ, to spy on Hamlet, two people whose allegiances are so clearly to Claudius, and who make no attempt to pretend they even like Hamlet?
Comments 
29th-Sep-2011 09:51 am (UTC) - Hamlet
Anonymous
For the record: there are a few gay people in the Hamlet company and production team and the innocent portrayal of Osrick has offended none of them.

Your personalised comments,however, are offesive. Actors should not be subjected to the bitter vitriol of a wannabe critic.

I have never been bowed down by the PC brigade that riddle and mock life and therefore consider YOU nothing more than a coward peeping through a hole and sneaking about pestering people. You are not a critic and were not invited to review this production which has overwhelmingly been received by critics with critical praise.

Bruce Jamieson (you know where to find me if you dare to pursue the discussion further)
29th-Sep-2011 11:18 am (UTC) - Re: Hamlet
For the record: there are a few gay people in the Hamlet company and production team and the innocent portrayal of Osrick has offended none of them.

Nor did it offend me, and Kevin Millington did a good job. Hamlet's reaction, on the other hand... well I wouldn't say that actually offended me either, but I didn't find it the action of a sympathetic character. Of course perhaps I was missing the point and the intention all along was for a radically different interpretation with a deeply unsympathetic Hamlet.

Your personalised comments,however, are offesive. Actors should not be subjected to the bitter vitriol of a wannabe critic.

Apologies if you found something offesive; if you are referring to yourself, I am afraid I did find your speech hard to understand, which is a shame in an intimate space and, yes, in general I like to be able to make out the words. If you mean Christopher Peacock, I'm just repeating a very old joke about his name, not making anything up. I'm not sure what other "personalised" comments you might be thinking of.

I have never been bowed down by the PC brigade that riddle and mock life and therefore consider YOU nothing more than a coward peeping through a hole and sneaking about pestering people. You are not a critic and were not invited to review this production which has overwhelmingly been received by critics with critical praise.

Well I won't disparage the News Shopper or The Stage (two thirds of whose good review was about the costumes) and their positive reactions, and I'm glad you were "overwhelmed" by whatsonstage's two-star review. I'm afraid my only qualifications to write a review are an English and Drama degree, several hundred previous theatre visits that I've reviewed here (including six prior Hamlets) and a few hundred more visits before I started reviewing (my total Hamlets seen now go into double figures) but no, I was not personally invited to attend and critique this show. Unfortunately I'm part of a modern phenomenon called theatre bloggers, an uppity bunch of people who think paying for a ticket entitles them to an opinion. It's a shame I wasn't blogging eleven years ago, because we could have had this discussion earlier, when you would I am sure have objected on the same grounds to the positive review I would have given your 2000 production of the same play.
29th-Sep-2011 12:32 pm (UTC) - Re: Hamlet
Mr Jamieson! I'm sorry I have not seen this production myself, due to not having a lot of time or money to spare, but while you're here, I wonder if you'd mind addressing nick730's comment about the cuts. He did state that they were the most problematic aspect of the production for him, so it seems a bit odd that you'd go out of your way to defend things that didn't bother him so much without addressing this major point.

Also, you catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I'd love this to turn into a full and enlightening discussion, so I do hope you won't come back with the rage displayed in this initial comment here. :)
1st-Oct-2011 12:40 am (UTC)
How comical! Don't you just love that huffy response? I must admit I had no plans to see this production given that I only seem to make it to London about once every 10 years. However, if I was a regular in the London theatres Nick's review would probably encourage me to give it a go if only to see if I agree with his assessment or not, it does sound a bit rubbishy, but I quite enjoy a bit of car crash" theatre!
I would however, almost certainly be put off this one by the desire not to encourage and pay good money to someone who is apparently contemptuous of what his audience thinks and who doesn't seem to have grasped the concept that he is producing an entertainment for the public and it is by their views that his show lives or dies.
1st-Oct-2011 11:41 am (UTC)
To be fair, judging from attendance at previous shows I've seen there, audience members who haven't been personally invited probably are something they're not used to coping with. And from the comment about me "peeping through a hole and sneaking around" I have to wonder if he's aware that his theatre's productions are in fact advertised, and open to be viewed by the public in exchange for a fee.
5th-Oct-2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I have stayed out of an irrelevant discussion with a wannabe critic about his insignificant views. But since, like all unpleasant irritations, he refuses to go away and continues to draw legitimacy and attention for his silly blog by drawing on imaginary knowledge of my venue - let me give the matter the finality it deserves - you are barred from my theatre! If I ever find you ‘peeping and sneaking’ about the place you will forcibly removed. Now that is a promise!

Alice de Sousa
6th-Oct-2011 11:44 am (UTC)
Oh, I'm afraid you seem to be under some misapprehension, apologies if it wasn't previously implicit: Your husband leaving me an aggressive, borderline-threatening message has not made me likely to ever darken your venue's doors again, nor indeed throw good money after bad. So while your explicit threat of physical force was appreciated, it was not entirely necessary, thanks.

I just want to make a note to anyone reading this who is not directly involved in the discussion: I have no way of knowing who has written an anonymous comment, regardless of whose name they have signed at the bottom. So it would be remiss of me not to mention the possibility that someone with a personal grudge against Bruce Jamieson and Alice de Sousa has been commenting in their names in order to disparage them.
18th-Nov-2011 06:18 pm (UTC)
Anonymous
I saw this production and thought it was great. I cant get what you are on about. I was checking through the reviews and caught this stuff. It was clear and really well acted. I understood every line, enjoyed the 2hour+ running time and thought Bruce Jamieson was superb. So there. The Belushis bar experience was crap though. taylor110@mail.com
6th-Oct-2011 11:57 am (UTC) - This is all amazing
Anonymous
*takes seat, grabs popcorn*
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