SHAKESPEARE, POPULAR CULTURE, and CRITICAL ANALYSIS
Sunday, March 30, 2014
Hamlet and the Potential for Over-Staging...Interesting Query
Is Hamlet staged too often? by Michael Dobson and Clare Brennan
To judge from the world's social media, thousands are delighted that Benedict Cumberbatch has just announced he will be returning to the London stage, affording fans of Sherlock their first opportunity since the National's Frankenstein to see someone who is rapidly becoming a card-carrying screen idol actually acting in person before their very eyes. I'm pleased too, primarily because he has made such an intelligent choice of play.
There are good reasons why Hamlet has been the most revived script in western drama for 400 years, and why some of us never tire of seeing it. Demanding that its central figure spend much of the show alone on stage, confiding in us about his own mortality and ours, as engaged with the present tense of its every performance as it is with its own plot, Hamletdemands more from actors and directors and gives them more scope for their own imagination than any other classic. The survival of three different texts from its author's lifetime – the long, meditative second quarto, the more streamlined folio, the short, action-packed first quarto – requires every production to reinvent the play. Whether primarily a dissident, a theatre critic, an introvert or a thwarted avenger, the Prince is never the same hero of what is never the same play. Hamlet is always a new play, and frequently the best one around.