On the 24th of April 2016, I went to Shakespeare’s Globe to see the final performance of ‘Hamlet’ which was played by Naeem Hayat and concluded their world tour of 293 shows performed in 197 countries. Firstly as this took place on the weekend celebrating Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary, whilst I was making my way to the theatre the whole of Waterloo was filled with large screens surrounded by huge crowds of people watching Shakespeare plays. There was a book fair taking place as well and the whole atmosphere was just brilliant!
The main thing that urged me to prefer this production over others I have seen is that there was such a diverse cast. The director deviated from choosing ‘stock’ characters and this made a real difference to how the play came across to the audience. Hamlet was played by an Asian actor and even more surprisingly Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were women! This instantly encourages the audience to reconsider the role of women in ‘Hamlet’ as although many critics have already labelled it an anti-feminist play where Shakespeare intended to expose female weakness through his futile and submissive characters of the ‘seeming-virtuous’ Gertrude and the ‘piece of bait’ [Showalter 2005] Ophelia we now have two other characters to consider. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were summoned by the King of Denmark to spy on Hamlet and to find out what is the true reason lying behind his melancholy, however this act of political naivety on Claudius’ behalf leads to Hamlet working out that his once loyal friends ‘were sent for’ and immediately causes his to send them to their deaths. In this production, once again Hamlet like Claudius and like every other male figure in this play view women as commodities especially as something that can be easily discarded and interchanged. The very moment Hamlet acknowledges that the loyalty of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern has been misplaced he immediately takes action however he is still unable on his murderous and incestuous uncle. Does gender have anything to do with this? Does the director’s decision to make Rosencrantz and Guildenstern women have any significant impact on the whole play as they are treated as poorly as women are anyway?
Also the director presented to the audience a scene where Old King Hamlet had seen his treacherous brother pouring poison in his ear. This instantly rejects the ‘goblin damned’ nature of the ghost and brings into question Gertrude’s superficial facade of a strong female diplomatic who is entirely acting for the good of the state. This has reoccurred in many of the productions and I do not fully understand why the same actor plays the ghost and the gravedigger, despite the obvious connections with death possibly this in a Marxist perspective highlights the notion of ‘two dishes being served to one table’, death is the final equaliser in which social class lines disappear and each individual is placed in the same size grave. The actor playing both the worthy King of Denmark and a mere uneducated gravedigger actively reduces the impact of the status that both of these characters are expected to hold.
I can’t even begin to describe how amazing the experience of watching this production in Shakespeare’s Globe was, it was definitely worth the hefty ticket price! The only thing is that during the entire play I found it hard to sit comfortably and enjoy the play because of the wooden seats and the fact that I had to constantly make sure my knees were leaning against the people sitting in front of me however I guess that is all part of the Elizabethan experience. I truly cannot wait to visit the Globe again (hopefully soon)!