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Why do modern theatre directors trash the Bard?

How it should be done, by a great of the theatre. Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.
How it should be done, by a great of the theatre. Laurence Olivier as Hamlet.

My eye was caught by a splendid review by Lloyd Evans in The Spectator of a new production of Hamlet. Elsinore is “presented as a sort of Travelodge, with sliding glass doors, swivel chairs and squishy round-the-corner sofa units” (complete with CCTV).

Hamlet, writes Mr Evans, is dressed to resemble a professional snooker player, his little face making “perfect casting for Third Crackhead in a squat melodrama” – “cynical, bad-tempered, ever prone to the hissy fit”.

The actor bawls out the text of “to be or not to be” at the top of his voice, making absurd little hand gestures “like a signing exercise for the deaf”. The director “likes his actors to lose control of their voices, even if their seagull honking becomes unintelligible”.

Gertrude, like “a nympho with a bus pass” and Claudius as “a bloodless technocrat” are always “snogging like naughty virgins”. Ophelia speaks her tragic “good night,...

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