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TOPIC: The real experience.

The real experience. 8 years 4 weeks ago #75

  • akfarrar
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He Plays A Good Part . . .

My mother used to say that about people she'd seen on the television (early days when they had real live plays in wonderful black and white on one or other of the only two English t.v. channels).

Being a sophisticated young individual, I, of course, dismissed the idea of her ability to have a valid point of view as nonsense and out of the window went the comment. The play, after all, is the thing.

To reduce the art of acting to 'playing' and the serious work and effort that goes into the creation of a character - a believable, living entity - as a 'good part' revealed much more about my mother's limited education and sensibilites than critical insight.

Mistake, it came to haunt me latter on - and is still echoing.

Some years later, and rather a lot of years ago, I went to watch the film version of Hamlet, the one with Mel Gibson in it, in Manchester shortly after it was released. It was not the greatest of cinemas, but there was a bit of a queue: All young women there to watch Mel in HIS new film.

Women just like my mother - Mel plays a good part so we will go and watch him in his new film.

My intellectual arrogance bristled. Shakespeare's character, Hamlet, his great play, Hamlet, were all more to the forefront of my mature world view than a mere Australian/American actor.

It turned out that they were a much better audience than most I have been in for Hamlet.

First, they didn't know the story (believe me, they did not know the ending). As the rapid sequence of deaths at the end of the play occured - there were gasps of shock, and squeals. All the way through the audience had been very attentive - following events for the first time. (Incidentally, a complement to the film - the language was not a barrier.)

Second, they had no respect for Shakespeare (if anything, the opposite had been ingrained by years of enduring the poor bugger's 'easier' texts thrust down their throats in not too good schools). No preconceptions about great art; no need to sit in respectful silence as the immortal words washed over them.

In effect, they actually 'enjoyed' the film. Mel, of course, played a good part!

Few members of the audience in modern Britain can come out of a production of Hamlet and say they enjoyed it - that they didn't find parts of it boring, if not the whole of it. For the most part they will be students studying the text, or older people who have studied it. The freshness has staled.

I suspect we go to the theatre (serious theatre that is) far too often with the idea of cutting another notch in our cultural record - it is good, so we are good.

It is a pity there aren't a lot more Mel Gibson fans out there.
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The real experience. 8 years 4 weeks ago #78

  • Irfaan
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akfarrar wrote:
It is a pity there aren't a lot more Mel Gibson fans out there.
Chalk me up as a Mel Gibson fan. There is no doubt he was excellent as Hamlet, supported by a very able cast, particularly Helena Bonham-Carter's Ophelia - best I've seen. I particularly liked Paul Scofield as the ghost of King Hamlet - a moving and compelling performance - so unlike the mechanical and ghastly ghost of the Branagh version.

Let's face it, film is very different from stage and when done well, and Zeffirelli is clearly a master, it can be much more engaging to contemporary viewers than live theater. I certainly did not mind that he chopped and significantly shortened the play even though many of my favorite scenes and speeches were tossed because he did it like any superb artist - with skill and taste, plus the language he kept was from the text.

Damn good movie, IMHO.

Jason
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The real experience. 6 years 7 months ago #1707

akfarrar wrote:
I suspect we go to the theatre (serious theatre that is) far too often with the idea of cutting another notch in our cultural record - it is good, so we are good.

I have to say I can't really reconcile this with my own recent experience (but then, I am, I think, rather younger than you). There may be a goodly number of upper-class snobs attending theatre (not to mention opera) in order to dispassionately cut further notches in their cultural records, but I really think that phenomenon is in decline, and theatre is becoming more for regular people. At least I very much hope so.

And I find it hard to believe that, as you say:
akfarrar wrote:
Few members of the audience in modern Britain can come out of a production of Hamlet and say they enjoyed it - that they didn't find parts of it boring, if not the whole of it. For the most part they will be students studying the text, or older people who have studied it.

Why go to a production if you know you will find it boring? I don't see the sense of it, and I can't believe more than a quite small portion of the audience fits this description. And why be a student of the text if it bores you? Are you implying that everybody who's studied the text are bored with it? And anyhow, how does any half-way intelligent person manage to be bored by a play as deeply inscrutable and mysterious as Hamlet?

I can understand, of course, that British school-children sometimes develop an anti-Shakespeare streak because they have been over-fed with Shakespeare plays at too young an age to understand much of it, but if that's the case surely they don't seek out performances in order to wallow in boredom and loathsome memories of having had Shakespeare shoved down their throats.
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The real experience. 6 years 7 months ago #1708

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Re: upper-class snobs - nothing to do with class or snobbery. Much more a misapprehension of the function of such cultural activity.

Re "how does any half-way intelligent person manage to be bored by a play as deeply inscrutable and mysterious as Hamlet?" - Quite easily - I am regularly bored with Hamlet productions - too long, too often. Ahh - I must be half-way intelligent!

The point about the audience in that first screening is that they enjoyed Hamlet - because the production was good.

The role of Shakespeare and Education in the UK is complex - frequently involves compulsory study of the text - and of course it will bore part of the time - impossible not to. Shakespeare's English is frequently unintelligible at first (and later) reading and a consequence of this is going to be boredom.

The health of the theatre in the UK is also a partial response to the compulsory nature of such text study.
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The real experience. 6 years 7 months ago #1709

Okay, I admit my own theatre-going experience isn't extensive, so I don't actually know how boring the average production is. In the nine years that I have been a Shakespeare enthusiast, I've only had very few opportunities to see actual theatre-productions. Most of the time I haven't prioritized it, as I've been more interested in textual study. I intend to try and catch more productions from now on, though. (Another problem is that they're frequently sold out...)
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The real experience. 5 years 6 months ago #2444

The thing is, I mean, that film was one way of interpreting the play and whether it was the best way is debatable, of course, but I personally think that if people are going to suddenly be interested in Hamlet just because Mel Gibson plays a part in the film, then that's better than if they'd never discovered the story, I guess. Obviously reading the play or going to see it in a theatre is often considered, you know, more valuable for your culture and everything, but at least that way those people in the audience you talked about were able to appreciate the play, somewhat. And that's probably what counts most.
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