Saturday, November 22, 2014

V.ii. The Readiness Is All - Tennant (2009)

The sequence is set in a cluttered storeroom where the broken mirror from Polonius' accidental murder is now housed. From a staging point of view, it allows the actors and the world to be reflected in a fractured way. The Hamlet now before Horatio is much changed from the one who left Denmark. Cutting out the details of Rosencrantz & Guildenstern's deaths makes Hamlet's part in those deaths more ambiguous, and potentially more direct. Like Hamlet, Denmark itself is cracked. Why else would someone like Osric be considered for a role in the Court's inner circle? The storeroom in shambles speaks to a broken and messy country where the monarchy has lost the plot. On a literal level, Hamlet has gone back to the scene of the crime that sent him on this journey. His "readiness" was born here, and a murderer looks back at him from the glass.

Osric is played very amusing by Ryan Gage (who also played the Player Queen, make of that what you will), a boyish sycophant with a huge, forced smile. He's quick to respond to Hamlet's requests regarding his hat, but finds it harder and harder to keep concentration as Hamlet proceeds to insult and humiliate him at every turn. The Prince sits down and lounges on the floor in the middle of a sentence, openly mocks him while Horatio chuckles along, and makes rude gestures at him. They mock his effete delivery, his body language, and florid language. In response, Osric swallows hard, sweats bullets and looks pitiful. Part of the reason is that Hamlet dares him to be disrespectful to him, and so perhaps hang himself with his own words. This is how Tennant makes us understand the exchange in which Osric says Hamlet is not ignorant. It's a case of being damned if you do and damned if you don't. Osric can either talk down to the Prince and explain things that should be clear, or else continue to mystify the Prince and be termed opaque and tedious. It's clear in this version, thanks to the CCTV point of view and Osric eye-rolling glance at that camera at the very end, that he's being auditioned for a greater role at Court. If Hamlet were to say no, he would have failed his mission and that audition. So Hamlet makes a threat there. Ultimately, he's ready to face the consequences of his return, and accepts the fencing vest Osric offers.

Interestingly, Horatio expresses no dread at the prospect of Hamlet losing the duel. He doesn't foresee the King's treachery. At least, not until Hamlet expresses his own doubts. This is a less suspicious Horatio, one that truly deserves to be in Hamlet's heart of hearts perhaps, because he doesn't immediately see the bad in people. And following that argument, it means he doesn't see the bad in Hamlet and that's how he can remain a loyal friend to a famous self-loather.

1 comment:

Craig D. said...

Overall, I don't like the Tennant version nearly as much as most people seem to, but I'll give it this much: best Osric ever. Gage just kills it.