This week, with the conclusion of the university term, I actually find myself with some time to take stock. And what a lot of stock there is to take! Recently, we hit a number of milestones worth celebrating: first, we reached the halfway mark in the rehearsal process, with two months down and two months to go. We also finished blocking the play — maybe a few days later than I’d hoped, but still well within the cushion period I try to allot for complex productions like this one.
Finally, this week was also the cast’s off-book date, but it remains to be seen if they have their lines memorized. Well, I know they aren’t 100% off-book, because no cast is every 100% off-book this early. But when we do a run-through tomorrow, it would be a lovely surprise to be proven wrong.
Here are just a few of the aspects of Hamlet that I’m proud of at the moment:
- Bradley’s costumes are further along than I would have guessed for a cast this size. As with so many aspects of design, I do my best to explain what I imagine, but I know I’m the blind man describing the elephant. Thanks to Bradley, the elephant is taking shape, and it’s gorgeous, full of lush reds and unexpected textures, evoking 1920s Dixieland partygoers and debauched royals all at once. His bold choices will help not only the actors, but also the other directors — I’ve already seen some great synergy between Bradley’s choices and Baillie’s work on makeup.
- I’m also relieved beyond words that we have a set builder back on board, after our original set designer retired unexpectedly. I’ve only met with Brent once — he can’t do any building until after Dec. 19, when we take possession of the playhouse — but he seems very enthusiastic, and not daunted by the huge project laid out before him.
- Then there are the specialists, like Cynthia, who choreographed a quintessentially 20s rendition of “The Mousetrap,” which will be accompanied by “authentic” silent film closeups, as recorded by Michael MacDonald. Michael also shot some footage of Hamlet and the Ghost out at the Fortress of Louisbourg last month. It’s still being edited, but once it’s put together, it will provide a chilling transition into the Ghost’s purgatorial world, in the style of classic expressionistic films like Nosferatu and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
- And the fights…oh, the fights! Robert Seale has been up from Wolfville three times to choreograph the duel, complete with double-blade action. It will be breathtaking, but it’s also merely the icing on a very violent cake. We’ve got Hamlet vs. Ophelia, Gertrude vs. Hamlet, Rosie and Gillie vs. Hamlet…come to think of it, Hamlet gets beat up a lot in this production. Come for the soliloquies, stay for the concussions!
- Finally, after all my speculating about a female Hamlet, I’m quietly tickled to announce that I will have a girl playing Hamlet — a 10-year-old girl named Gabrielle. Her sister will join her to enact a prologue of sorts, revealing the friendship of Young Hamlet and Young Ophelia, and showing how the Dane first started getting into all that melancholia.
Oh, and P.S. I’m in the show, now. When the actor playing Marcellus dropped out, I couldn’t resist sneaking myself onto stage, if only so I could deliver one of my favourite lines, and one of the chief inspirations for a production that is, quite rapidly, taking shape into something weird and dark and wonderful:
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”