Shakespeare Saturday: The Post Stratford Blues

Last week at this time we were post-Hamlet giddy, luxuriating in 70 degree weather, and watching Love’s Labour’s Lost. Ah, what difference a week makes… Back to real life, I suppose. The shine on Stratford has far from dimmed for either of us, of course, and plans are already underway for next summer’s Shakespeare adventure.

C touched upon many of the post-Stratford effects we have been experiencing so I will try not to be too repetitive as I break down my own symptoms. I have officially become a tea drinker, I no longer believe Love’s Labour’s Lost is a complete travesty, I have been reading Shakespeare every night before bed, I miss Laura’s breakfasts, on Thursday I watched Shakespeare in Love, today I watched the 2000 film version of Hamlet (and, oh boy, is it a piece of garbage… but more on that later), and the 90+ degree Florida weather is slowly killing me. There’s more, of course. So much more. I long for Balzac’s tea, the sounds of geese and swans in the evening, and the nearness of world-class theatre. I’ve also watched the trailer for Stratford’s Hamlet at least half a dozen times trying to relive every moment of it.

Perhaps the most important thing I took away from this vacation was inspiration. As a writer and performer I tend to thrive on creative energy and there was an abundance of it in Stratford. I have set new goals for myself as a result of those four magical days; goals that I will be working toward within the next year. Of course, finishing work on Mercutio with C is high on the list, but I am most determined to bring the same conviction and dedication to interpretation to my own performances as those I saw on the Festival Theatre stage. I also (eventually) want to audition for the Stratford Shakespeare Festival… But that is further in the future. #PipeDreams.

As I mentioned, this afternoon I watched a version of Hamlet that I had not yet seen. Of course, I did so as part of my post-Stratford grieving process (though I had intended to watch it anyway). Starring Ethan Hawke, Julia Stiles, and Bill Murray I found this modernization to be utterly unwatchable…

Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet is monotonous and oh-so-boring, Bill Murray’s Polonius is far too serious, Julia Stiles’ Ophelia is stiff, the soundtrack is god awful, whoever edited the script should be shot, and the entire film moves at a slower pace than turtles marching through peanut butter (and it’s only an hour and a half long!!!). Not to mention it would appear that Ethan Hawke didn’t actually bother to learn any of Hamlet’s key soliloquies because almost all of them are whispered voiceovers. Are you kidding me???? Why bother?? He does about half of the “to be or not to be” speech wandering around a Blockbuster with no conviction whatsoever. Ugh. Steve Zahn’s Rosenkrantz provides a moment or two of watchable hilarity, but there is very little to recommend here.

Peter O’Toole once said of Hamlet: “Of course, I think it is the worst play ever written. Every actor does it out of vanity.” While I disagree with the first portion of his sentiment I have to agree that it is undeniably a thing of vanity for some actors to play Shakespeare’s greatest tragic role. That vanity is seen most clearly in shoddy performances such as this, in which it is evident that the actor has neither the acting chops nor the understanding to do justice to the role.

So yeah… I find myself longing for Stratford even more after putting myself through that hell. I feel that Hamlet may actually be ruined for me for the rest of eternity. The Stratford production was just so brilliant I don’t see what can possibly compare. C and I have already bought our tickets for National Theatre Live’s cinema presentation of Hamlet at The Barbican this October (yes, the one with Benedict Cumberbatch) and I just hope by the time we see it I’m slightly less biased.

That’s all for today! Tune in tomorrow when we may or may not get back into our regularly scheduled programming.


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