Friday, July 24, 2009

Act I Scene 1 - Kline (90)

A Broadway Theatre Archive presentation, Kevin Kline's Hamlet (co-directed by Kirk Browning) is representative of many filmed stage productions, preserving performances and staging for posterity, this one of a well-remembered New York Shakespeare Festival production. It sets the play somewhere in the 18th or 19th century, or perhaps even the early 20th, since the costuming might just as well be Edwardian. Its Denmark is a bare stage, using darkness in the way that the BBC production uses fog.We're in a no-man's land, atmospheric and universal. A moving search light in the background plays on the idea that "Denmark is a prison".

The Ghost
Played as basically a shadow here, using the back lighting to its maximum effect, and I think showing Olivier's influence (Kline's performance bears this out as well). It appears only once in this abridged scene and quite briefly, the cock crowing soon after. There is no striking of the partisans, no proof of intangibility. Given all the shadowplay, an uninformed audience might believe this IS a hoax as Horatio first believes.

And this is an interpretation sorely lacking in the supernatural. The Ghost fills Horatio with more awe than fear and cut from the scene are all mentions of the magical. And yes, that means they cruelly cut Marcellus' wonderful "Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes" speech. Obviously, Horatio no longer speaks of the dead walking Rome's streets (or explains Denmark's historical context), which is really too bad because Peter Francis James gives a strong performance as a "Roman" Horatio.
But cutting his classical references early on undermines that performance's relevance.

In this version, the scenes flies by and you're left missing key elements. Literally missing them and wishing they'd been included.

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