Sunday, February 08, 2009

David Tennant and Derek Jacobi Win Critic's Circle Award

Congratulations to both David Tennant (1) and Derek Jacobi for winning the Critic's Circle Award. Mr Tennant wins the award for his Hamlet, Mr. Jacobi for playing Malvolio in Twelth Night.

Here is an excerpt from the review of Tennant's Hamlet in The Guardian:
Tennant's performance, in short, emerges from a detailed framework. And there is a tremendous shock in seeing how the lean, dark-suited figure of the opening scene dissolves into grief the second he is left alone: instead of rattling off "O that this too too sullied flesh would melt", Tennant gives the impression that the words have to be wrung from his prostrate frame. Paradoxically, his Hamlet is quickened back to life only by the Ghost; and the overwhelming impression is of a man who, in putting on an "antic disposition", reveals his true, nervously excitable, mercurial self.

This is a Hamlet of quicksilver intelligence, mimetic vigour and wild humour: one of the funniest I've ever seen. He parodies everyone he talks to, from the prattling Polonius to the verbally ornate Osric. After the play scene, he careers around the court sporting a crown at a tipsy angle. Yet, under the mad capriciousness, Tennant implies a filial rage and impetuous danger: the first half ends with Tennant poised with a dagger over the praying Claudius, crying: "And now I'll do it." Newcomers to the play might well believe he will.

The run has since ended. Let us hope that the RSC see fit to put this on DVD for the rest of us. You can sign the petition here.

I have been a fan of Mr Jacobi since I Claudius and I had always wished to see him perform on the stage. I got my wish when the RSC came to Los Angeles just before the 1984 Olympics, and by dint of standing in line for hours and hours at UCLA hoping for tickets with a charming crowd of other Shakespeare lovers. My persistence paid off: I had the great pleasure of seeing both perform both his witty, romantic Cyrano in the play by the same name, and his funny, beleaguered Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing. I'll never forget either of those performances and I'll always wish I'd seen his Prospero at Stratford. Here is an interview with this lovely and uniquely talented man. (2)


(1) David Tennant is perhaps best known in the U.S. for playing Dr. Who

(2) You can catch Jacobi's Hamlet, a performance for which he is justly famous, on DVD:

Jacobi's Prince of Denmark is a complex and embittered intellectual, whose occasional bursts of love, faith and even fury are transformed within an instant into weary skepticism. His first resort in any dilemma is to let fire with irony on his nearest and dearest. In a way, though hardly "innovative"--too many actors seem desperate to find (or invent) something wholly new in this too-famous character-- Jacobi is giving us a very postmodern, almost "deconstructed" Hamlet--attractive, sensitive, even high-minded on the surface, but underneath a man whose sanity and even noble intentions are ultimately untrustworthy. The more I see this version of the play, the more I think the Ghost to be a lying goblin damned, or even a trick of Hamlet's fantasy, and Hamlet himself more scourge than minister. "It hath made me mad" Hamlet cries, staring at his own two abusive hands in the nunnery scene--a reading of the line which makes more sense to me than any other I have heard. And still we'd forgive this Hamlet anything, wouldn't we?

Patrick Stewart portrays a Claudius wholly up to the challenge of overturning Hamlet's world. No lecherous drunkard he, as in many productions, but the capable CEO of the troubled state of Denmark. Hamlet underestimates him all the way. That Stewart happens to be blessed with one of the finest dramatic voices around underscores this Claudius' capacity to woo both Queen and Court. In fact, this Claudius is so dangerous that Hamlet’s famous inaction becomes a reasonable reaction to circumstances, and it is no surprise when his only remaining option is direct, and tragic, action.
Note to Shakespeare fans: Patrick Stewart played Claudius to both Jacobi's and Tennant's Hamlet.

You Tube Video: David Tennant's Hamlet

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