Sunday, November 8, 2009

I.ii. Enter Hamlet - A Midwinter's Tale

Again, sorry about the quality of the screencaps. All I have is a VHS tape, and I'm taking pictures right off the television.Branagh's A Midwinter's Tale is a comedy, first and foremost, but not all characters are send-ups. Richard Briars' Claudius plays it straight, as does Michael Maloney as Hamlet. Of course, by this point in the film, Maloney's character Joe has been offered a part in a Hollywood movie and had to leave on the eve of the play's opening. His sister Molly has taken over the role, but as soon as Claudius addresses her, she shows why she was only the script girl. She freezes.

Then out comes Joe from behind the crowd as Hamlet. He has returned just in a nick of time, prepared to sacrifice his career for the purity of theater.
It creates some interesting staging. Though a youth on stage seems to be spoken to, it's not Hamlet after all. Claudius might as well have called out at the sky. Hamlet is hidden in the room, somewhere. The confusion plays with other identity reversals, such as Polonius being killed in the name of the King, Claudius taking Hamlet Senior's place, and Rozencrantz & Guildenstern getting beheaded in Hamlet's stead. It works thematically. On stage, we have a new father who doesn't know his "son" enough to recognize him in the Court.

Joe/Hamlet makes great use of the church space by coming out from behind and barrels towards Claudius with anger. His opening puns lash out at the King. There is no ambiguity about Hamlet's outrage here.

And then back to comedy, as Molly gets pulled off the stage, and John Sessions as Gertrude overacts and mangles a line: "Can thy colored nighty off!" The joke is that a queen is playing the Queen, and though it sounds stupid and insulting when I say it like that, Sessions' character is so endearing and touching that it comes off very well.

So some do's and some don't's for prospective directors here.

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