Finally through all the malaise, a chance for a day that reminds me why I love my adopted city.
I hauled out of bed to go to Hamlet at The National. The Dorfman ex Cottesloe. Claire was Gertrude. Any constant reader will know who I mean by Claire as she’s one of the unfortunate friends who just get named now in this blog without permission. Twelfth Night. Willows. Life. Claire was a wonderful Gertie in a fun quick Hamlet. I did The Factory long enough to know Hamlet backwards. This was a wonderful audience to be part of, and it’s a wonderful show to witness.
“It’s all a bit green,” says Guildencrantz. The actors are constantly freely ad-libbing in their own language, and then sliding into bits of text from the “enshrined” version. The name confusion of those two unctious courtiers Rosenguildencrantzstern – it is played more clearly than I’ve ever seen it. We see the royals not really giving a fuck so long as the job is done. And we see Hamlet changing the letter to the English King. And we watch them die. They are fun. And they die. “Why did they die?” asks a small child behind me. “Hamlet changed the letter so it wasn’t him,” the mother attempts. But yes, small child. You’re right. Hamlet didn’t need to do that. Arguably Hamlet is an absolute fucker for doing it. Good to hear him called out by a child. He didn’t need to. Stoppard cashed in on that. But yeah. These stories by Shakespeare – they have edges. Hard edges. This is part of why his work has persisted. We believe that he knows we will notice these things and care and interpret. “It’s yours not mine,” is what Pinter would say. We hope that Shakespeare was equally free. He was an actor after all.
“Are they all going to die?” asks the small voice behind me even as Ophelia drowns herself with words from To be or not to be. “No, I think the Queen lives,” says the mum. Horatio is cut from this version. Normally somebody lives to tell the story. Not here. Everybody is for it in this version. It’s bleak. The incredible awful unnecessary poison death of Gertrude meets with a slightly steely commentary from our young commentator “no mum. She’s dead too. They’re just all going to die in now. All of them.”
Good old Hamlet. It’s a play about how, when we have everything in place, we still don’t see things through until we are forced to. We can let our whole life go by ignoring our own needs in favour of what we think are the needs of others. And while we do it, the likes of Claudius take all the territory that would be more beautiful and rich if it was just ours and freely ours. There isn’t much room in the world now, and the kind people might be the best for whatever the job is, but kindness is a recessive gene. Every time I see Hamlet it reminds me to kick forward. Every time I play Claudius I think about what he represents – the ruthlessness and entitlement. I loved this version. I was proud of Claire. And I felt galvanised.
Post Hamlet, drinks too early in the day. Joy and fun with the friends and associates connected to the show. A drop too much wine and I found myself in Waterloo so I went to see my old dear companion Hex, who is now beautifully homed.
It’s been a long time for the pair of us.
And now I’m at The Green Note in Camden. Jazz and spannacoppita and a spot of hummus. Very much the guest of a wonderful friend. Another aspect of this town. And fuck it – I love it here. I love the yes. The variance. And real people are about to play me music.. And I’m gonna listen.