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In My Mind’s Eye — Hamletas at the Globe

Posted June 8, 2012 in Articles

The great Nekrošius with his troupe of actors in a production of Hamlet at the Globe!  It should have been glorious and how I wanted to love it but, alas, it was not to be.

I’m only too sorry to say that for me it was a dampish squib – on a wet, miserable evening in London but only nature was to blame for that – in spite of the director’s use of a multitude of props and devices, “full of sound and fury” and while not “signifying nothing” – there were some great moments – they over all got more in the way than not.  The production – and what a busy production! – was too much Nekrošius and not enough Shakespeare. But then Nekrošius is not the first director to make Shakespeare subservient to his ideas.

There was some great acting from the players apart, as bad luck would have it, from the “actor” playing Hamlet, one of the most challenging roles that any actor can play. I grew up in England and have had the great good fortune to have seen some of this country’s finest actors portray Hamlet on stage, as well as two of the greatest performances captured on film, that of Laurence Olivier and Innokenti Smoktunovsky. One can only agree with the person that said that Olivier could speak Shakespeare’s lines as naturally as if he were actually thinking them.

It might have seemed like a good idea and a coup de theatre to get Andrius Mamontovas, a great musical performer and deservedly Lithuania’s most famous rock/pop star, to play Hamlet about 15 years ago, which is when this production was first put on, even though quite clearly he is an untrained actor cruelly exposed on stage, unlike a film which is a much kinder and more forgiving medium for untrained actors, and without the ability to project his lines – forget modulation! The Globe, with the space in front of the stage open to the sky, is particularly unforgiving. The “to be, or not to be” speech was flat and for all the stark beauty and pathos of the lines, albeit in translation, Mamontovas could have been reading the ingredients off the back of a cereal packet. And what is a greying middle-aged man with a thickening waist (as we saw in the scene where he tears off his shirt) doing playing or playing at Hamlet? In Lithuania where men have an average life expectancy of 68 by the time you’re 44 you’re 10 years past middle age.

We can agree with the Bard that “All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” but it comes as no surprise to learn that Hamlet is the only acting role (with a few exceptions*) that Mamontovas has taken on in his career since 1997. That pretty much has to be some sort of record and explains a lot.

However, it has to be said that the Lithuanians in the audience – and there were unsurprisingly quite a few of them – seemed to love it but for them I would think it was first and foremost a Lithuanian event with their critical faculties suspended.


Romas Kinka

* Playing, for example, the male lead in the dreadful film Amaya, aka Hong Kong Confidential (by a Latvian director who should have known better).


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