April 30, 2012

The Night the Lights Went Out in Ellsinore!

"To be or not to be? The same old question faced Hamlet in July 2008 at the Royal Shakespeare Company's Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. Hamlet is a cautious fellow. He's been chewing things over for more than four hundred years and still seems some way off from a decision.

As a theater critic I have to sit through about three Hamlets a year. The temptation to shout, "Do make up your mind, mate!" becomes ever harder to resist. Yet this particular July evening in 2008, as actor David Tennant grappled with the lead role, one member of the audience watched with rare interest--British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, himself enough of a ditherer that the subdrama became: Procrastinating politician watches indecisive prince.

The company's actors that evening faced the more pressing tragedy of their radio-powered lighting cues going haywire. The ruddy things worked faultlessly during rehearsals but then conked out unexpectedly. The guards on the ramparts of Elsinore found their electric torches would not work. The entire stage plunged briefly into darkness and Francisco and Bernardo started shouting their opening lines to conceal their panic. Only later did the performers realize that the glitch had been caused by the anti-scramble radio gear carried by the prime minister's bodyguards: Historic play short-circuited by modern political reality." 

Quentin Letts -Nov-Dec 2010 - World Affairs Journal