Saturday, March 14, 2015

V.ii. Duel and Deaths - Slings & Arrows

Though the sequence includes a brief shot of the fight, the montage focuses principally on Hamlet's death and Jack Crew's emotional release after getting through the entire play (he turns his head away from the audience in death, but faces us, the other audience, and smiles). If indeed Hamlet (like many, if not most of Shakespeare's plays) is about the Actor on Stage. Hamlet's sufferance is dramatized as an inability to leave the stage for extended periods of time; it's a marathon. So when he's allowed to rest, Hamlet's relief is the actor's.

Slings & Arrows also plays on a behind-the-scenes irony: The sequence is intercut with shots of the audience, and among them (just off-stage), Mark McKinney's character, the theater manager Richard Smith-Jones, was, through the whole of Series 1, trying to undermine the Festival's Shakespearean mission, and push a Broadway Musical agenda. By turns the equivalent of Claudius, Gertrude and Polonius, in the end he is a Fortinbras figure, there to supplant the "Danish" regime, and yet, like Fortinbras, reluctant in the end to do so. It illuminates a character we don't see a lot of in the play. Norway's prince may have conquered Denmark, but so potent is the play and its central character, that he is filled with regret and elevates his defeated foe to a higher stage, somehow becoming a kind of Hamlet, one that can carry on.

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