Anybody who was fortunate enough to see The Tempest last month with Christopher Plummer in the leading role
as Prospero will know how exciting Shakespeare can be.
Most of our experiences of Shakespeare have come from reading his plays at school. Often this leaves people feeling like they never want to touch Shakespeare again.
He didn’t write his plays to be read, he wrote them to be performed. His audiences were people just like you and I. When they went to see his plays, they did not care what the theatre was like but rather, were there to experience his new play. Going to a Shakespeare play was as exciting for them as seeing a rock concert today.
Christopher Plummer, for example, clearly demonstrated as Prospero that if you add a pause before speaking a given phrase, you suddenly understand what Shakespeare was saying. Many great actors and directors of Shakespeare will say that the pause is what makes his plays work.
I was very fortunate growing up in London because going to see a live play was as natural for me as seeing a movie at The Roxy today. Plays were very inexpensive to see, so when I was taken as a young boy to see a performance of Sir Laurence Olivier as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, the special thing of going was seeing Olivier on the stage not that it was Shakespeare. That performance has burned itself into my memory.
But what turns somebody on to Shakespeare? There always seems to be one performance or one play that is really so magical that it captures our imagination and we fall in love with Shakespeare. By the way, I say that not as an Englishman because many North Americans say the same thing. Olivier’s performance for me created that magic.
Now, onto Hamlet
Probably one of Shakespeare’s best known plays and most popular, Hamlet is about a young man who has a great relationship with his Dad, Polonius, the King of Denmark and his Mother, Gertrude whom he deeply loves (unhealthily?). Quite suddenly his world is turned upside down. His Father is murdered by his brother, Claudius, who replaces him on the throne. Hamlet hates Claudius for the murder and his Mother betrays his passionate love by marrying Claudius. He believes Gertrude has transferred her love for Hamlet to her new husband… thereby hangs the tale.
I won’t continue the whole story or you might not come out to see this wonderful modern perspective on this play. The themes have not changed. It is a story of stolen love, betrayal, romance, comedy but ultimately tragedy.
Come to The Roxy Thursday Night at 7 pm. See for yourselves as Hamlet is performed in a live broadcast from The National Theatre in London. Experience the magic.
Peter Waters is a well-known local actor and director