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TOPIC: Challenging scene

Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1960

I have jut started researching and studying Hamlet as next term at drama school I will be performing a modern version of the play! But one of the questions I have come across is ' What is the most challenging scene?' I just hoped I would find other hamlet lovers out there or actors who could share their views!Thank you
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1961

Welcome, nicola. :)

That's a difficult question to answer and I'm sure there are more answers out there than I can count....

I think many would concur that the nunnery scene or even the closet scene can be the most problematic. But, then again, you make the same case for the entire play based on that kind of reasoning.
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1962

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Sitting in the audience there are three parts that regularly fail for me:

The Ghost.

Mad Ophelia.

The chainsaw massacre ending.

The actor’s greatest challenge has surely to be the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ speech – To Bee or not to Bee … (Buzz Buzz).

Thinking about it I have only ever seen one good ‘live’ ghost – that was at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, many, many moons ago – Philip Madoc was doing a season there and doubled the role of Claudius and the Ghost. It was a brilliant performance (although the production was too longgggg!).

The Ghost is key – you have to believe in the ‘spirit’ or the meaning of the whole play goes through the window (I stole that idea by the way) – therefore you have to believe Hamlet sees it.

Film has it easier.: The dry ice of the stage (surely no one does that nowadays?) pales when compared to the special effects of cinema.

I’ve never seen a totally convincing Mad Scene on stage – you always seem to see the ‘technique’ of the actress. Again, you’d think, film has an easier task – but no amount of fancy cutting and technique will help if you don’t have an actress who is ‘as-nutty-as-a-fruit-cake’ in real life – which is where Bonham Carter wins hand down (‘sandwich-short-of-a-picnic’ that one!).

Well, the ending – I can’t watch it without ‘Queen’ pounding in my head – ‘Boom, Boom, Boom - And another one bites the dust!’

As for acting difficulties – can any actor face THE speech without the cold chill of audience participation freezing his bones?

One day soon it will fall over the edge – Rocky Horror Show joining in (way beyond the 1000 choir Sound of Musics) will happen.

To Be
Buzzz Buzzzzzz
Or not, to be
SPLAT!
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1963

Thank you so much-this is just what I need!hahaha love the rocky horror reference! More is very welcome!xxxx
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1993

All scenes in Hamlet are difficult, because no one really understands them. So everybody has to do their own take on them. Newcomers often assume that there are known specific meanings behind a lot of what Hamlet says and does, but the fact is that even the most seasoned Shakespeare appreciators (incl. scholars) are pretty damn clueless. That's the reason so many different things can be - and are - done with the play. Most scenes are up for grabs. The important thing for a director is to have some kind of original vision or interpretative idea running through the production.

The single scene I would say is most difficult, though, is the nunnery scene. What the hell is really going on there? Ten experts will give you ten different takes on it. When does Ophelia go mad? For that matter, *does* she go mad, or is she just beginning to understand something that no one else understands? This play is question-crammed, and as a director you have just about all the freedom you could ever want. Though of course, in order to do a show that does justice to the text and the performance history, you should study up on the thinking and interpretations that have been dominant in the past. You can never do too much background work. If you want to add something truly new, you must find a way to show why your interpretation is as good, or better, than those that have gone before.

The second-most difficult scene, in my view, is when the players begin their dumbshow; the mimed summary of the Murder of Gonzago. Hamlet's comments during that scene are always played as deeply acerbic and scoffing, and Ophelia is always shown to be very ill at ease. Personally, I think that's completely wrong. Hamlet has just prostrated himself in front of Ophelia, imitating the behavior of a courtly lover with his mistress, and the following exchange about his head in her lap is intimate lovers' talk. Ophelia is not ill at ease here; she and Hamlet are at the peak of their romance, and revelling in it ("you are naught, you are naught!")! But of course, most directors and scholars find this difficult/impossible to reconcile with the rest of the action, demonstrating that there is some deep misunderstanding going on somewhere.
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1995

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akfarrar wrote:
but no amount of fancy cutting and technique will help if you don’t have an actress who is ‘as-nutty-as-a-fruit-cake’ in real life – which is where Bonham Carter wins hand down (‘sandwich-short-of-a-picnic’ that one!).

Maybe it's the lack of "technique" other than what the editor might be able to employ. I think the answer might lie in the problem--that being our voyeuristic desire to make everything soap-opera "real". "...'nutty-as-a-fruitcake' in real life"
Then nobody's "acting" at all, are they?
The actor’s greatest challenge has surely to be the ‘Rocky Horror Show’ speech – To Bee or not to Bee … (Buzz Buzz).

As for acting difficulties – can any actor face THE speech without the cold chill of audience participation freezing his bones?

One day soon it will fall over the edge – Rocky Horror Show joining in (way beyond the 1000 choir Sound of Musics) will happen.

One can only hope it becomes that popular again--
Back to the Brechtian issue. Do we doubt that the Groundlings and the audience in general were privy to something a little bit more special than is the result of our propensity to stage Shakespeare in a fishbowl, with the owners of the aquarium forced to "peep-in" at the proceedings like so many Toms? No wonder actors are "uncomfortable". Harley Granville-Barker said it best:"If the designer finds himself competing with the actors, the sole interpreters Shakespeare has licensed, then it is he that is the intruder and must retire" In our case, the designers haven't only overdone the scenery, they've also robbed anyone attempting the lines of the intimacy the genre dictates.
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1996

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Re: Hamlet-tough scenes
nicola wrote:
But one of the questions I have come across is ' What is the most challenging scene?'

shakespeare wrote:
That's a difficult question to answer and I'm sure there are more answers out there than I can count....
I believe that's the only verifiable answer.

You'll find almost as many opinions as there are actors, directors, playwrights, critics, or scholars.
My personal feeling is that Hamlet's , 'Oh that this too too ("solid"-"sallied"-"sullied") --take your pick, although not a 'scene', is one of the most difficult tasks an actor can undertake. It really is part of the preceding scene-(Hamlet's first appearance in the play) which doesn't lend any help in the very next job he's handed. Although the scene isn't difficult in itself, the actor's choices during it can make for a helluva hard sell for the character when he reveals, in the subsequent soliloquy, just what it is that's bugging him. He's pretty much been this kind of sullen, irascible figure with Unk & Mom all through the immediate scene, and then has to pour his heart out for us--AND make us feel something over what initially could be considered a fairly trivial issue--"Mom's not sad enough over Dad's death". The importance of 'first impressions' figures in an awful lot in how we view whatever a character does or says afterward. Hamlet must, I believe, sell us his humanity and pain without any expositional ammo to back up or substantiate his great, all- consuming angst.
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1997

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Maybe it is an excuse for showing off your technique and so distancing, Brecht like, from the emotion?

Maybe its just badly written for the stage?
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Challenging scene 6 years 4 months ago #1998

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akfarrar wrote:
Maybe it is an excuse for showing off your technique and so distancing, Brecht like, from the emotion?
Shakespeare complains about such things long before this, but...
If we think about how 'rhetoric' (and thus, technique) got its bad name--bombastic egotists- "...periwig-pated fellow tear[ing] a passion to tatters, to very rags..." Ham. III, ii- forced to expound ever more stylistically over the distracting din that was Restoration Theatre, it comes as no surprise. I don't think they had much of a choice; their 'distancing' or 'showing off' was, I think, at least somewhat dictated by the circumstances.
Apparently, Shakespeare's actors found a way to split the difference between rhetoric (and there's a great deal of that in any play he wrote) and "... hold[ing] as 'twere the mirror up to Nature." I think the convention of including the audience--at times, not pretending they didn't exist-- was the key.

Actors can be admired as much for their ability to employ a technique, turn a phrase, indeed, employ rhetorical skills "...Words, words, words." as well as an artist of any other art form. I think when we leave out the audience in the case of his plays, we set up almost impossible parameters the actor becomes forced to adhere to. Maybe that's why this thought can occur in some cases:
Maybe its just badly written for the stage?
Maybe that's why so many actors shy away from it--how can one be 'real' AND employ heightened rhetorical skills at the same time? There's certainly a way--as a matter of fact, I saw something of it in one of your teaching clips. Although not exactly what I'm talking about, if we extrapolate, the connection can be found. Just WHO is Hamlet talking to when he states, "To be, or not to be..."?
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