Posted on 02/07/2013
English Department Student/Staff committee trip to see theRSC’s production of Hamlet inStratford-upon-Avon
Written up by Luke Haisell (2nd Year, SH)
With examinations completed and coursework deadlines passed, English, Drama, Management, International Relations, History, Languages and Media Arts students and staff, linked by a love of theatre, joined to go on the English student/staff committee’s Stratford-upon-Avon trip. Sunshine greeted our arrival in the Warwickshire town, with students and staff taking the opportunity to shop, visit properties associated with Shakespeare, go boating on the River Avon and indulge in all Stratford had to offer. We regrouped inthe afternoon for the matinee performance of the RSC’s 2013 production of Hamlet. We entered the auditorium to see an exhausted gymnasium on a parquet floor, bordered by an expanse of muddiedsoil. The sports hall setting proved useful for the production’s preoccupation with fencing, as exploited by their use of swords and symbolic gauze-concealingfencing masks. From the outset it was clear that this production was going tobe different. When Hamlet first appears he is nerdy in his buttoned-up blacksuit and rimmed glasses yet, as the production advances, such a garb isdisposed of for a fencing outfit which could easily mimic a straitjacket. Jonathan Slinger certainly plays off such an ‘insane’ costume as his Dane is feverishly unconventional. Slinger’s Hamlet, in an attempt to circumvent theHamlets gone before, plays his Prince with comedic humanness, most notable in his frenzied rendition of Ken Dodd’s Happiness before uttering the immortalised ‘To be or not to be’ soliloquy. In doing so, Slinger split the audience ofRoyal Holloway with some admiring his vivacious, fresh complexity and othersfeeling he made Hamlet superficial by excluding his melancholic, psychological profundity and consequently also excluded what has come to canonize Hamlet.Nevertheless, a great group of people, a fantastic day in Stratford and with, what Dr Rankin dubbed, a rich ‘food for thought’, Marmite production.