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Production Diary II: This Time It's Polonius

Well, and Your Humble Blogger is starting on a new Production Diary. Polonius, this time. I’m actually quite depressed about having entered my Polonius years. I am clearly too old to play the titular prince anymore, and I did have my crack at it, so I can scarcely complain. Still. Polonius. I was kinda hoping for the Player King.

I was quite pleased with how the Malvolio diary turned out, I have to say, but then I went in to the thing utterly terrified, not knowing what the hell I was going to do with the part. This is Polonius, a part which seems to me to have few questions or challenges. The actor has to get laughs with the funny bits and not be as tedious as his character, but there aren’t really a lot of options, are there? It is quite a straightforward part. Still, I’ll write about how I go about the preparation, and perhaps it will be more interesting than I think it will.

And the play… oh, it’s so good. I hadn’t re-read it in years, and somehow it had fallen somewhat down the Favorite Plays list, or even the Favorite Shakespeare Plays list. Richard III, Richard II, Lear, As You Like It, Henry IV part I, even Comedy of Errors had shouldered their way past it. Re-reading it again, though, I was astonished by how terrific the play is. The poetry, of course, but also the structure and the scenes, the characters and their conflicts. The way that scenes start in one direction and are deflected, sometimes two or three times before they get where they are headed. The way the tension is handled, and the way the characters seek to break that tension for themselves and each other and the audience. So good.

You know, it’s so obvious, when you know the play as well as we all know it now, that Hamlet has to kill Polonius. But if you don’t know it, it is such a great theater moment when Hamlet suddenly sparks into action and screws it up, and that murder pushes all the rest of the terrible, terrifying plot. I have to do something with that.

First read-through is tomorrow night; the show goes up in late February. I hope I’ll write two or three times a week between now and then. We shall see.

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,


Congratulations on the part of Polonius! I can understand your disappointment in relation to other, richer parts round about, and being type-cast as the steward figure. I expect you will find as you get into it that the part of Polonius, like everything in Hamlet is not as straightforward as it appears. Polonius is funny, at times, but what are we laughing at?

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