I enjoyed my trip to Clapham to see a sensibly slimmed-down version of Hamlet that also included a song from Cymbeline interpolated. In true Shakespearean style we had an all-male company entering and exiting by the door of an upstairs bar to play on a stage erected at one end of the room; a strategically-placed curtain led me to expect Polonius to be stabbed through it, but that was not to be.
I thought that Benjamin Way’s mercurial and mood-shifting (but not mad) Hamlet was very good, and I also enjoyed the Queen Gertrude of Lee Peck. The production kept the action moving and was as promised crystal-clear. At times I thought we might be going in a different direction with Hamlet just Hamlet and his rages and reveries and the rest orbiting distantly around him; but that was not to be either.
During the interval Claudius was anxiously checking his smartphone and behind me the young people were keen to see who had got whom on Tinder and Plenty of Fish; but maybe these were not connected.
When I was a young, I was tormented by the characters’ names clearly not being Danish–apart from Gertrude. Last night, that was still worrying me-the back of the Signet edition says that the story comes from one Saxo Grammaticus who had Feng instead of Claudius, Gerutha for Gertrude and no names for the rest. It also occurred to me for the first time that if you took away the poetry [laughs bitterly], the story with its rain, death, cold, death, infidelity, death, treachery, poison, death, muddy graves, regrettable gravedigger jokes, rats, cold wet death and so on could be typically Danish. But the willow grows aslant a brook is surely nowhere else but Warwickshire…
See here for a video clip from a performance in Norway.