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The HAMLET Experience

By Elizabeth Pashley

It’s been a while since I’ve been to the theatre. As an Emerson student, I immersed myself in writing and literature and developed a casual interest in film. But I usually overlooked the theatrical aspects of the school. Then I found myself working for the Office of the Arts. Now I proofread and write copy; I edit emails and playbills, and erase all those pesky typos. The content of what I’m editing, however, isn’t in my expertise. I jumped on the chance to go see Hamlet—it’s literature, after all. But what I came away with was a new appreciation for the dimensions of the text that were brought out through theatre—the stage, and the actors, and the set—and how the text can be interpreted and presented in a fresh, engaging way.

Shortly after I found my seat in the Paramount Center Mainstage theatre, Dickon Tyrrell—the actor who plays Claudius and the Ghost in the Shakespeare’s Globe production of Hamlet—walked on stage, sat down, and began chatting with the audience in the front row. A few other actors came out and tuned their instruments. No curtain was drawn and the lights stayed on. When it was time to begin, the drums and music rolled out and Tyrrell joined the rest of the cast. It quickly became clear to me that this was no ordinary Shakespeare.

It was with pleasant surprise that I heard the actors’ clear, unmiced voices perform Hamlet. In my mind, I have this picture of people shouting Shakespeare at me and them thinking what they’re doing is “acting.” To me, the Elizabethan language makes the text seem unnecessarily grandiose, when in Shakespeare’s day it was not only lofty but more often lewd. (Iambic pentameter can only cover so many insults and puns.) Not only was this delivery understandable, but the physicality that Shakespeare’s Globe brought to the production added much-needed humor to a somewhat melodramatic tragedy.

Yes, I said it. This Hamlet was funny. Live music was performed as an interlude to each scene, as well as a special effect for moments when the Ghost appeared on stage. Carlyss Peer (Ophelia) sang a beautiful tune as her character drifted into madness. Laughter rang through the audience when the gravediggers played with puns or asked for a beer from Jacob Wirth (a local pub), or when the play within a play cut away to the looks of horror on Gertrude’s and Claudius’ faces. It was nice to experience a more light-hearted version of the classic play, as Shakespeare can often be dreadfully serious. 

This cast of Hamlet is small and intimate. There are only eight main actors, each playing at least two roles (with the exception of Hamlet). By the end, each actor seemed like someone I’d cheerfully go to the bar with after the show. Shakespeare’s Globe made Hamlet warm and inviting and the type of Shakespearean theatre I want to see again!

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