Sunday, December 25, 2011

III.i. The Nunnery Scene - Slings & Arrows

The Nunnery Scene is not in the broadcast Slings & Arrows, but can be found as a deleted scene on the DVD. While the group is rehearsing outside, they coax Jack Crew into using the text instead of his usual paraphrasing - a natural cut because it revealed too early that Jack knew the words and could do them, undercutting the later scene where his director forces him to do "To be or not to be" with the text. His paraphrasing IS pretty ridiculous at times. There is no reason not to use Shakespeare's original on lines like "I loved you, once", for example, since it already sounds modern. The one paraphrase that was interesting to me was the line about the paradox, translated as "Beauty will turn a virgin into a slut before honor will turn a slut into a virgin". This blunt interpretation paints Hamlet as someone who believes there's no coming back from sin. An honorable slut cannot recapture her virginity. Some things cannot be undone. Is he simultaneously talking about the revenge he must take? Is this part of his delay? Truly, murder cannot be undone.

When he switches to the Shakespearean original, Jack proves he can not only do it, but do it well. And his choices are interesting too. He puts a venomous emphasis on the word "mother", for example, highlighting the fact that she's more germane to the discussion than Ophelia is. He puts a manic spin on his ambitions, acts like a mischievous creature, makes Ophelia laugh... How would this have played in context? Making Hamlet impish in this moment rather than cruel wouldn't quite have worked, not without excising Ophelia's implorations to Heaven and soliloquy. It might work within the framework of a more mercurial performance, where he turns to cruelty suddenly, or a production that, through cuts and inferences, made Ophelia more of a knowing ally to Hamlet. In any case, we don't find out because the sprinklers start and Jack switches to King Lear's storm speech. While it does bring up the larger question of the way madness is portrayed in Shakespeare, and draws a connection between the two characters and how, in each play, the protagonist's state of mind is projected onto the environment, it does abort a possible staging for the Nunnery Scene.

Because S&A takes inspiration from the plays in its greater story, it is a nice touch here that the festival administrator, plotting against the production's success, is, Polonius-like, watching the scene from his car.

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