Peter Brook has done it again! This colourful TV/ video of Brook's stage version of HAMLET is a joy to behold.
Brook's direction of the actors in 'The Tragedy of Hamlet' lit a new pathway into the magic world of Shakespearean interpretations. We've come a long way from Lawrence Olivier's rather stilted, well-enunciated delivery of "To be or not to be...'. That was the 50s and this is now!
The main thing about this 2 & 1/2 hour production is that even though this is a shortened version with much of the plot left out: such as the scene of Polonius's farewell to Laertes and many others, they are there in the back of your head. You wonder how these actors would have done the lines - and, I did wonder this but I did not really 'miss' them. Brook's Hamlet was rivetingly played by a black actor with dreadlocks. Adrian Lester , the Jamaican-born actor from Birmingham (England) remarked: "Is theatre not an act of the imagination?" The veteran actress, Natasha Parry, (Brook's wife) tries a bit unsuccessfully to be stately as Hamlet's mother, but overall she is OK as the queen in deep royal purple. And I guess, it's nice to see an actor, who is 'too old' rather than too young. Throughout, Brook reveals his connections to India... Ophelia is played by the Paris-based Kuchipudi dancer Shantala Shivalingappa. Her Ophelia had an innocent, untouched quality.
But, of course, the whole point of this production is that most modern audiences may be familiar with the full-length Hamlet, and as a result, had become a little bored with Shakespeare's subplots and verbiage.
With this in mind, Brook cut out about one-third of the dialogue and removed major scenes and speeches. The audience soon realizes that Brook uses the assumption that there is a leaner, cleaner Hamlet lurking beneath Shakespeare's expansive work. Brook reduced scenery to an Indian flavoured brightly vermilion colored carpet, bright silk pillows and a few cyan blue low stools and tables on coaster wheels, so that his eight actors (and one musician) could do their business unhampered by starched lace and Elizabethan costumes.
The minimalist setting intensified, accelerated and smoothed the way for the action, highlighting both Shakespeare's magnificent words and Brook's masterful choreography.
The eight actors, several of whom double up on roles, brought everything alive for me. Jeffrey Kissoon played both uncle Claudius and the Ghost of Hamlet's father, and really opened the contrast and the complexity of the human psyche. Critics complained that for anyone who is new to Hamlet that the doubling up of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern with Naseeruddin Shah and Rohan Siva (as Laertes), and as the First and the Second Players, is somewhat disconcerting and possibly confusing. But we can learn to live with that... and I felt that the final effect was worth it.
I loved the fact that at last I could follow the plot & feel genuine anguished sorrow at the destruction of Ophelia's mind, as virtues of trust and loyalty were intermingled with tragedy and death. I could positively 'see' the internal workings of Hamlet & Claudius's hearts and minds, as they figured out who they could trust in this life and the next.
Basically that is why I admired Brook's production, because it was a colourful, lively, amusing and deeply human piece that touched my heart and stirred my soul.
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