Polonius Production Diary: The run begins
21 February 2017, 10:13 AM
Hamlet has opened; we’ve done three of our eight performances. I haven’t written about it for quite a while, it seems, partly of course because tech week leaves me with very few spoons available for the blog, and partly I suppose because as we get closer to opening I found I had little to say. Polonius doesn’t so much have a character arc—I suppose that’s not true, but it’s a very simple one, at least the way I’m playing it: he more or less keeps his head above water until he has the bright idea to loose his daughter on Hamlet, and when that goes poorly it’s pretty much continuous panic until slain. I don’t think I’ve learned anything new about the character from doing full runs.
Anyway, we’ve opened. I’m not sure what to write about it. The first performance was a technical nightmare; the second had many technical problems; the third was more in keeping with the sort of thing I have experienced elsewhere. With luck (and more to the point, with hard work by other people in between now and Thursday) there will be no repetition for the catastrophes or even the cock-ups, and it will all become an amusing story in the telling. I’m not ready to tell it yet, though, and it wouldn’t be amusing if I did.
I will say that I’ve changed my mind a bit about the play. Not about its quality, mind you. If anything I like it even more than I did three months ago. It’s an amazing, beautiful, terrifying play. No, just as a matter of interpretation, I feel now that it’s a stronger play if it is interpreted as a battle between Hamlet and Claudius. That is, there are two major ways to look at the Elsinore of the play: either Hamlet is a lone innocent in a cesspool or Claudius is a unique villain. In the past, I’ve tended to the former, but now I think the latter makes for a better experience. Not that everybody else is pure and good, just that they are victims of Claudius’ manipulation in the service of his ambition, greed and lust. They bear no particular ill-will toward Hamlet, except when pushed to it by the King. In the end, when Hamlet kills Claudius, it is (in this view) really achieving something. Emphasizing the corruption of the rest of the court diffuses that, I think.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,