Monday, 10 September 2012

hamlet - bridewell theatre

I went to see Hamlet at the Bridewell Theatre on Saturday evening - only picked up on it from a Bridewell email in the week. It was a production by the Garden Suburb Theatre - new to me, an amateur production, transferring from an outdoor summer run somewhere (Bridewell is now more of a venue for hire than it used to be, I think). I had looked at the website a cople of days before and saw there were plenty tickets available so didn't book, but it was pretty full on the night; there was a large group there, from it turned out one of those clubs which is for folk who like arts and theatre but would rather go in a social group and make new friends than go by themselves.

It's the second amateur Hamlet I've seen, and although neither of them were great, you do have to give them credit for ambition. The previous amateur production I saw had a really very good Hamlet, in a different league from everyone else in the production, who ranged from fine through okay to really not very good. This production didn't have any stand-out performances like that, but Polonius/Osric was pretty good, Hamlet was fine, some others had their moments (the Gravediggers did well; Claudius made me think of Tim McInnerny in Blackadder for a lot of the time, genial but dopey, which worked surprisingly well, whether by accident or design), and some were not very good. But all the same, hats off.

(The main lesson I learnt from it about 'acting which could be improved' (let's not say 'bad') - and it struck me so clearly that it was a wonder that no one pointed it out in rehearsal - was that if you are listening to someone talk in real life, you do not change your expression or make a gesture or make to interrupt in reaction to every different clause of their speech; in general you just listen without obvious relevant reaction.)

They used multiple people to represent the Ghost - three at the start, four later - which was interesting but not sure why and they didn't make much of it. Interesting that for all they had to cut, they retained quite a bit of Hamlet on how people should act, which is often cut. The Ghost popped up at the end to hold Claudius down while Hamlet stabbed him, which was interesting - and coincidentally echoed something from the last Hamlet I'd seen, the Lithuanian one at the Globe, when the Ghost came back on and observed in the last scene. With amateur, of course, you have to work with what you've got, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were clearly not ages to have been schoolfriends of Hamlet, but the way they were dressed I'd say they were going for the idea that they had been his teachers/tutors, which worked fine.

A couple of reviews. Entertainment Focus. One Stop Arts. RemoteGoat. London Culture blog. Here's the Garden Suburb Theatre's pages on the open-air production and the Bridewell transfer. And here, most interestingly, is a blog (mostly by Claudius and the director) on the rehearsal and production process, Hamlet2012OpenAir.