A clumsy sacrifice

Luminous blue is the colour of 2022 Hamlet for the Guildford Shakespeare Company staged at Holy Trinity Church. Fluorescent in the touch of dusty air, polished in the impact with the aureate chancel, it turns at times into an unclouded red, altering the presence of the cross. Quite literally, as a spirit, an apparition, a ghost is where the plot comes to be.

Checkered stage set up in front of the altar, audience accommodated along the nave, this familiar non-theatrical venue, vouches for the site-responsive character of the company. GSC — founded by Matt Pinches and Sarah Gobran in 2006, has a solid community oriented nature, nourishing numerous educational projects.

Tom Littler`s production relies on some sort of common, everyday hardship, to build upon the Elsinore clan, beginning with the new regime`s Security Guards — dressed up in blue and retroreflective jacket, requesting Horatio to collect a paramount piece of evidence. Coming from behind the audience, the blue light of Old Hamlet (voiced by Edward Fox, father in real life of the leading actor), soon pierces the fourth wall, rounding it up.

Commonly tragic ordinary couple, despite wealthiness and manners, Claudius and Gertrude — middle-rank oligarchs?, consume their champagne around a coffin that will `uncommonly`, quite never, leave the stage, almost a `bar-like` board, around which to party. Satinized fabric wraps it up, echoing costumes — designed by Neil Irish. Royal adviser, and bishop, Polonius wears a collar with his common grey suit.

Freddie Fox`s Hamlet is pleasant, with his `overtones` and well-directed merry nuances, — when wearing a mitra to lead the `fishmonger` `s speech from a pulpit, when fist-bumping the (one and only) travelling player (a splendid Noel White). `Gigolo-like` in guise and attitude, this latter is captivating while `playing in the play` for the other `actors` who sit on the ground in front of him, turning backs to the audience, `audience in the audience`.

Ophelia (exquisite in eloquence Rosalind Ford) brings the `sober solemnity` of the holy locus in the flesh of the musical insertions — she performs Bach on a `floating` cello, and then transitions into the chapter of her madness with grace and virtuosity. So that when holding Yorick`s skull sudden comes his adulthood, the Prince`s infuriating incapacity gives way to a clumsy sacrifice in the heart of an ordinary tragedy. 

Seen on Vimeo on March 5 2022

`Forty and a bittock`

From across the pond an idea for keeping theatrical creation alive despite social distancing comes this way via Folger bulletin. Door Shakespeare — from 1995 performing in the fascinating Garden of Björklunden, a wide peninsula estate located on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan, ended up being hoovered by the net too. How that happened, is what makes it peculiar in the details.

Brainstorming on the above, artistic director Michael Stebbins and managing director Amy Ensign came up with a rather unique approach to their virtual production. First and foremost opting for a quite neglected Shakespeare-inspired play — J.M. Barrie’s Rosalind, furthermore for the use of Zoom as rehearsal environment rather than a `live` performance `stage`. 

The aim being to produce a `filmed` version of a `new` production — as for in `old `productions available online from other companies around the world, some other adjustments had to be made. So that actors could perform in their individual homes, but rehearsing and performing on, and with, the `same` set, props and costumes, `as if` sharing one `common space`.

That is how set designer Jody Sekas built three identical fireplaces and mantles, — which director himself delivered at each actor’s place with a U-Haul cargo, and props, — three pairs for each item, from teapot, to tablecloths, framed photos, steins with flowers, candles and bases, and also two pairs of pocket photo holders, plus one knapsack for `Charles` via Amazon.

Each actor used his or her iPhone to record, improvised as `light designer` manipulating table or floor lamps, while partners or spouses lent a hand — literally, `doubling` actors in passing objects. FaceTime was used to show how the shots were framed, while Zoom to record the scenes in real time. Eventually, Ryan Schabach, self-taught film-maker, edited the sequences — `shot` from different angles, together. 

The final product is neither a film, nor a theatrical experience but a quite memorable mirabilia of this specific time of distance which calls for art to be, `despite`. Something quite similar to what Shakespeares’s heroine of Arden is called to accomplish in order to just `be`, — in (as a character per the original), and off (as an actress per Barrie’s script) stage.

Shakespeare Rosalind’s `labour` to educate Orlando in the matters of love in order to enter marriage on her own terms demands quite a journey into the `green` space of transformation — the forest. Barrie’s `Rosalind`, — Mrs Page, `Beatrice` (of all names), also has to sacrifice quite a lot in order to serve art, whilst be true to herself. Forever 29, `despite` her (longed for?) middle-age. 

CHARLES: My dear, I want to be your Orlando to the end. Do you hear me?
CHARLES. I will take you out of that hurly-burly and accompany you into the delicious twilight of middle-age.

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