Hamlet: Director's Notes



" . . . like the hectic in my blood he rages"--Hamlet, 4.3, line 68

Hamlet does rage in one's blood if you let him.

He is the enigma of his age and of all subsequent ages. For any actor he is a pinnacle of both self-exploration and the exploration of the craft of theatre. The two are completely intertwined.

I first played Hamlet in 1978, in a schools production presented by the Court Theatre, Christchurch, heavily edited and with a cast of five. Since then I have been involved in three further productions, in which I have played Laertes, a Player, Claudius and Hamlet again in 1992.

This time I feel I approach the role with a sense of knowledge, though only enough to make a fair attempt.

Because it is an infinitely challenging chameleon of a part which demands diversity of skill and complete commitment of soul. It requires passion, intensity and above all, a sense of risk.

If one is to assume the rather auteur-like position of actor and director, then this is certainly the role to do it with. Hamlet, had he not been a prince, would have been a director. He tells the players, and by proxy, all of the actors in the play, how to do it:

"Speak the speech I pray you as I pronounced it to you, trippingly on the tongue! But if you mouth it, as many of our players do, I would as lief the town cryer spoke my lines!"--Hamlet, 3.2

I am relishing this opportunity to practice my craft. I find the play to be incredibly, eerily modern in its sensibilities. In this world seemingly on the brink, where doubts and speculations about mortality are rife, it is totally apt.

It also soars above the mundane and literally sings to the spirit.

Everyone in this production is committed to the poetry and the sheer scale of it. There is an abundance of energy and creativity coming from them, all of it sucked into the text and thrown up as riveting drama.

I have chosen a contemporary setting so that the disquieting questions of morality and existence, which still trouble us, can be asked afresh.

Michael Hurst


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