Stratford Festival - Jonathan Goad's Hamlet is wonderful to watch!
Jonathan Goad, Geraint Wyn Davies - Photography by Don Dixon
There are so many great Shakespearian lines uttered by Hamlet throughout the play that the audience literally strains to take in each word with many incredible soliloquies delivered by an impressive Jonathan Goad. No coughing, no sneezing, no restlessness in the theatre. Complete silence as we collectively witness a determined Goad work his harried way to the dramatic end, with dead bodies littering the stage like bowling pins, shattered and strewn haphazardly about - an absolutely wonderful production directed by Antoni Cimolino, one that you must see.
Goad as Prince of Denmark is youthful, clever, idealistic and adds humour and passion to the difficult role that actors most covet. The other cast members also play their A game in this production with Tom Rooney a standout as Polonius, emitting humour and pathos while Geraint Wyn Davies is quite nasty and brutish as his brother's murderer. Mike Shara is a fervent Laertes bent on revenge and Seana McKenna, as always, is solid as Gertrude. Adrienne Gould as Ophelia, Tim Campbell as Horatio, Juan Chioran as the Player King, Mike Nadajewski as Osric, Sanjay Talwar and Steve Ross as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern - what a terrific cast!
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is in mourning for his father - and deeply disturbed by the speedy remarriage of his mother, Gertrude, to Claudius, her deceased husband's brother. When his father's ghost reveals that he was murdered by Claudius, Hamlet decides to feign madness until an opportunity for revenge presents itself. Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain, thinks that Hamlet's behaviour springs from love for his daughter, Ophelia; but Claudius suspects otherwise when he sees Hamlet savagely berating her.
The arrival of a travelling theatre company gives Hamlet the idea of re-enacting his father's murder to startle Claudius into revealing his guilt. The performance causes an uproar, and as Gertrude remonstrates with her son, Hamlet kills the eavesdropping Polonius, mistaking him for Claudius. Ophelia, driven mad by grief, later commits suicide. Having evaded one attempt by Claudius to have him put to death, Hamlet agrees to a fencing match with Ophelia's brother, Laertes - who secretly poisons the tip of his sword. Both combatants, however, receive wounds from the poisoned blade. The dying Laertes reveals the plot, whereupon Hamlet kills Claudius before succumbing to his own inevitable fate. ( Stratford Shakespeare Festival Study Guide Hamlet)
Death and Desire, Director's notes by
Antoni Cimolino "Who builds stronger than a mason, a shipwright, or a carpenter?" riddles the Gravedigger in Hamlet. When his colleague is stumped for an answer, he delivers his punch-line: "A grave-maker: the houses he makes lasts till doomsday."
In Hamlet, as in our own lives, death is never far away. The play takes place in a world almost at war. The old heroic king has died. His brother, the new king, has ushered in a modern age - practical, politic and steeped in corruption.
Hamlet is a young man trying to find justice in this world - our world as much as his. In the end, he settles for revenge and death, including his own. The young are sacrificed in this play. They are a lost generation, forced to react to the past by their parents' wrongs and their parents'
sins. "Remember me!" demands the Ghost of Hamlet's father.
The Gravedigger tells us that he took up his trade on the very day that old King Hamlet killed old Fortinbras - the same day, too, on which young Prince Hamlet was born. So in a single day the events of the play were given their birth, and so too was our hero - while the man who will bury him started to work.
Many years later, another playwright captured some of the same sense of life's predetermination - Samuel Beckett in Waiting for Godot: "They give birth astride of a grave, the light gleams an instant, then it's night once more."
What happens in that instant?
In the new modern age that Shakespeare describes in Hamlet, the gleam is that of desire - for power, money, sex and drink. Such desires help us forget death. They are seen as integral to life itself and therefore not to be questioned. But in such a world, where is there a place for love and
loyalty, family and friends? That question was on Shakespeare's mind in the 1600s and should be on ours today.
Our point of departure in this staging of Hamlet is the birth of the modern age - just before the start of the Great War in 1914 - but since the story's relevance defies limitation to one era, time in our production is changeable and compressed, and the world begins to look more and more like our own.
Just as, in Shakespeare's day, Galileo's discoveries in optics and Montagne's skepticism would eventually end the feudal world of faith, so at the start of the twentieth century Freud, Einstein and Picasso were to dissolve the certainties of the mechanical age. The old world would be swept aside - and with it, a generation of young people. But what would replace them? Would there be a fresh start? And in the face of death, does anything really matter? The rest is silence....