From Titus Andronicus to Hamlet, this has been my Shakespearian year. I have not read as much as I would have liked, got stuck on Much Ado About Nothing and found myself agreeing with a good friend of mine, Eli. She told me she thought I was a bit obsessed with the tragedies. I don’t think she is one hundred percent right, I love the comedies on stage, but I do find them difficult to read.
I feel I have become, a little detached from Shakespeare over the last few months. I think this was due to coming down from the high of seeing the murderous, Titus Andronicus at the wonderful Globe theatre in London. The Globe has left such a yearning in my heart, I wish I could go there every day. With a bit of luck and forward planning, that’s a good one, forward planning, I will try to organise a London trip, at least once a year. I will try and fit in The National Theatre when I’m down. I have been told by a lot of people it is a special place and I should do my best to get there. It would have to be Shakespeare. I know that sounds a bit narrow minded, but I feel I can only concentrate on his work. Then again, I would love to see Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple on stage, it‘s one of my favourite films, so maybe I should not be so narrow minded. I did have a slim chance of seeing Simon Russell Beale as King Lear at the National, it was just so soon after Titus, I let the chance slip away. Everybody says it was outstanding.
A while back I started to follow The Citizens Theatre on twitter and Facebook and luckily I saw a tweet mentioning they were staging Hamlet, so I got online and booked two seats for me and my boy Tom. Tom makes faces and pretends he is board, but I know he really does like Shakespeare. Jack my youngest, on the other hand, fell asleep during a very noisy battle scene in Macbeth, at the Edinburgh Festival.
The Citizens is a wonderful old theatre in the Gorbals district of Glasgow. We were seated in the main auditorium, which holds five hundred, there are two smaller spaces for a more intimate experience. I had tingles in my spine when I walked into the dress circle and looked down at the stage. Then the lady usher, handed me a couple of programmes and told me, in a lovely and warm Glasgow accent to enjoy the play. The setting of the stage took a bit of working out, there were three banks of reel to reel tape recorders, there was guitars, a bass and a lead lying around at the back. There was a piano and drums and cymbals. At the front of the stage there was a long table and some chairs.
While we were sitting chatting, waiting for the play to begin, various people were wandering about the stage and we were all wondering who they were. Suddenly and very abruptly, all the talking stopped as if someone had thrown a switch. I don’t know how they did that, it was very good. The play begun.
I have watched Hamlet on DVD, at the cinema in a live screening from the National in London and of course I have read the play, but this was the first time seeing it live. Hamlet was played by Brian Ferguson, he was very good, though sometimes I thought his voice was a little sharp, that is just a small observation, his descent into madness was chilling and very funny at times. The get thee to a nunnery scene with Ophelia, was disturbing and I felt the sadness of her more than any other version of the play I have seen, so far. Ophelia was played by Meghan Tyler. She was fantastic, small, lifted of her feat in huge bear hugs by everyone, beautiful with long flowing fair hair. She sang like a heart wrenching a rock star, then lay in a bath soaking wet and blowing bubbles, drowning. She then sat at the graveside, water running of her, before she was lifted into the grave and laid to rest by her brother Laertes.
Polonius, played by Cliff Burnett was outstanding. He reminded me of Bill Nighy a bit. He is a great multitalented actor, playing a character I have always found annoying, I think, he is supposed to be? He could be so funny and a bit creepy with his daughter. It is a huge part and he walked through it with great skill. He also played the afore mentioned guitars. A few of the cast played the musical instruments at the back of the stage. The music was sensational, matching the mood and the action going on in the play. I am so glad I got that programme, I can tell you who was responsible for the music. The composer and sound designer was Nikolo Kodjabashia, an eminent representative of the Balkan and eastern European musical avant-garde. Free programme, they only ask for a pound donation, it’s been priceless for this post.
Claudius, played by Peter Guinness and Gertrude, Roberta Taylor were both wonderful. I have definitely saw them on TV. All the other actors were brilliant and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Adam Best and Crighton, were a riot. Horatio, played by Citizens theatre intern, making his professional debut, Martin Donaghy. He was great and I’d never have known it was his debut. The play was a brilliantly boozy affair. Bottles and bottles of what looked like Smirnoff vodka, were drunk throughout the performance. Think Smirnoff should send them some samples, for free advertising. Or me, for mentioning them twice.
My first live performance of Hamlet. It was a huge production and I loved it. So this year I have been very lucky to have seen two, world class plays by William Shakespeare. Titus Andronicus at The Globe and Hamlet at The Citizens. In the years to come I want to see many more, including a trip to Stratford Upon Avon and the RSC. An overnight stay and a night at the theatre would be great. I would love to see round the Shakespeare birthplace. It looks fantastic. I will keep more than an eye on The Citizens, it really is a fantastic theatre.
I hope you liked this post. I know it was a bit of a showbiz review, but Hamlet is a very long and complex play. There are a lot of words to get to the bottom of, I think you could make it your life’s work, just studying Hamlet, that is the genius of Shakespeare. The more I see Hamlet and re read it, the closer I will get to the centre of it.
George. 8th October 2014