producing hamlet : LUSENET : Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet : One Thread

basically i want some ideas to help me with 'what a producer must consider before producing and directing hamlet.' any of you personal ideas about staging, climaxes in the play, what pervious producers/directors eg, Branagh, considered, audience response etc would be fantastic. thanks.

-- rhian llewellyn (, January 03, 2001


Well, the first thing that leaps to my mind is, "Did Hamlet really go nuts?". Personally, I don't think so. Extremely emotional, certainly, but not "I think that I am a lobster" kooky.

You must consider the story as a whole and realize that some of the audience has no idea what it is about. Communicating the story cleary using the Elizabethan language is difficult, but not impossible. Get a good Hamlet. I saw one production on stage where all of the cast was decent except Hamlet. He was disturbingly bad and I'm sure Shakespeare shuddered in his grave every time this guy came on stage.

Hamlet is a tragic hero. People should feel for him. They should care about his pain. And, even after all the unkindnesses he commits, they should not want him to die. In the above mentioned production, Hamlet could not die soon enough to suit me. I was ready to bump him off myself.

Whatever else you do, enjoy the language. If your actors understand what they are saying and don't get hung up in the metre, proper inflection will communicate the meaning.

As for staging, check out Richard Burton's Hamlet. I think that you can watch it for free on the internet somewhere. It is also a good example of what not to do with the language. That is what people think Shakespeare is (Branagh has proved otherwise).

There. I think I've finished my babbling.

-- Mikken (, January 11, 2001.

The important thing is to know exactly what it all means and, where more than one meaning is possible, to make your decisions and stick with them. This is especially so in HAMLET, where a lot of what is said is cryptic or loaded, and what is left unsaid is as important as what is said. And the actors have to know what it all means too - I stress All, that is the whole play, not just their own scenes - for unity and richer performances.

The difficulty with staging WS is coming up with a set which accommodates the myriad scene changes, unless you take the bare stage approach. But this is no problem in film. Branagh went to the other extreme of complex elaborateness.

There's 'period' to decide on, for set, costumes, behaviour. I'm a bit pedantic when it comes to historical accuracy, but I feel HAMLET can have more freedom here than most of the plays. Anything up to the 19th century. But it doesn't sit comfortably in the 20th century because of its religion, philosophy, humanism, ways of doing away with people, not to mention sheer poetry. I've seen a few modern-dress productions and they don't work for me. One even used a motorbike - sort of HAMLET meets THE WILD ONE. Hmm.

-- catherine england (, December 05, 2001.

I have to disagree that setting Hamlet in modern-day doesn't work. Of course, this sort of depends on whether you liked or hated Hamlet 2000, the movie with Ethan Hawke and Sam Shepherd, which I really liked. I feel that the "way of doing away with people" can work great if you have Hamlet carrying a gun and shooting Polonius (behind the curtain) and have the final "showdown" between Laertes and Hamlet be an actual modern-day fencing match. Futhermore, it allows you to do whatever you wish with the play-within-the-play in the modern sense. I like the idea of having entire scene done as rap with a bass and drum back-up. As for the "sheer poetry", I feel that making modern day plays poetic is just as moving as Shakespeare thought it was in his "modern day."

-- Dan Killman (, November 18, 2004.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ