Saturday, August 21, 2010

I.v. Swearing Oaths - Kline '90

Kline's version is staged like a play, but that sometimes puts its staging closer to the theatre. At the end of the previous sequence, it is customary for Hamlet to collapse. Kline goes up on structures and lets himself fall back into the void... and into the arms of Horatio and the soldiers (yes, here too, both soldiers appear). A common drama class trust exercise used to good effect as Hamlet falls from the supernatural world of the Ghost and into the embrace of the living world.Kline gives an unironic reading to the word "wonderful" when Horatio asks what news. I'd never really thought about Hamlet's answer, perhaps because it was always thrown glibly and quickly as part of the prince's mad speeches. Here, Hamlet wakes up as if from a dream and answers more honestly. We know the news is pretty far from wonderful, unless he means "filled with wonder", which would be warranted from a brush with the afterlife. We might wonder ourselves if Hamlet actually sees the prospect of getting to kill his uncle as something positive, or if this emotional inversion is an early clue to his madness. In the early part of this sequence, Hamlet does indeed seem mad. His moods change, he sweats profusely and seems deranged. There's even a sense that his friends don't hear the Ghost's voice at first, though there is a reaction the next time it does.

Perhaps we should look at the concept of the Royal Body as an explanation. The King is dead and Denmark grows cold. The new King has broken rightful succession, which relates to time being out of joint and the temporal strangeness of the play. But if Hamlet is the rightful, bypassed, King, should he not also relate to the State? The solution to the problem of the Ghost and Hamlet's madness (is there a Ghost or is he mad?) may be that Hamlet's grief and madness are spreading a new reality in the land. He misses his father so strongly, that his grief manifests as an apparition others can see. In this scene as played, it's like this imposed reality (born of the King-State connection) catches up to the group slightly late. Hamlet imagines it and so it becomes real. But that's as maybe.

An interesting touch from Kline is to include the soldiers at least as much as Horatio. He speaks his lines to one, then the others, keeping up with the giddy energy of the scene. The swearing is done without a sword, upon the ground from which the voice sprang, invoking how the stage play should feel.
As the voice moves, they shift their ground to that place and swear again. On the stage, the audience would be aware of that movement under the floorboards and be caught up in the chase. This is lost on television, but stage directors should do well to remember to play this out if they can. As the oaths proceed, Hamlet gets more and more stable, though the men with him seem amply worried. When he breaks with them to speak his rhyming couplet, as if coming to a sudden and almost cosmic awareness of the state of reality, they hear it all and don't know how to respond. Sometimes he's with them, and sometimes he isn't, and perhaps it's fitting that he would specify they should go in together. In his current state, just being present does not always mean he is "with" them.

No comments: