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Podcast Episode 125: To Be, Or Not To Be ‘Hamlet’

Comparing some cinematic ‘Hamlets’ with the stunning stage production at The Globe

A gallery of cinematic Hamlets: Laurence Olivier, Richard Burton, Mel Gibson, Kenneth Branagh, Ethan Hawke and Benedict Cumberbatch.

Episode 125: To Be, Or Not To Be Hamlet

A look at various screen Hamlets to go with an interview with Barry Edelstein who has a bold new production of "Hamlet" onstage at the Old Globe Theatre. Edelstein talks about breathing new life into Shakespeare's play and I'll play clips from some famous and not so famous melancholy Danes.

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Transcript

The Old Globe has a bold new production of “Hamlet” on stage now. It is directed by Barry Edelstein and it made me see the play with new eyes. This podcast is dedicated to Shakespeare’s great play and to understanding it better through film and an interview with Edelstein.

In regards to the Oscars, Humphrey Bogart once said, “The only way to find the best actor would be to let everybody play Hamlet and let the best man win.”

It’s no accident that he chose “Hamlet” for his example. That role is the yardstick by which actors have been measuring themselves for centuries. On film we have not gone a decade without an actor tackling the role since the 1900s (that’s right, even in the silent era we had “Hamlet” on screen, more than a half dozen times in fact).

Cinematic Hamlets have ranged from Laurence Olivier’s classical interpretation that emphasized some uncomfortable intimacy between Hamlet and his mother, to Ethan Hawke’s modern-dress Dane in Michael Almerayda’s contemporary take to Kenneth Branagh’s four-hour-plus uncut adaptation.

To date, I hesitate to label any of the film “Hamlets” as classic or definitive, but each illuminates the play in different ways. But each will live on for future generations to ponder and enjoy.

Photo credit: Jim Cox

Grantham Coleman is no melancholy, indecisive Dane in Barry Edelstein's production of "Hamlet" now onstage at the Old Globe Theatre.

The current stage production of “Hamlet” at the Globe, however, is of a more transitory nature. Once the production ends Sept. 22 it is essentially gone forever. But the production benefits from the fact that director Barry Edelstein is not just an inspired artist with a vision, but a Shakespeare scholar who has been studying the Bard.

The event that finally spurred Edelstein on to tackling the play was the death of his father last summer.

For this podcast I will run through some of the key film versions of “Hamlet” to highlight what each does well and sometimes what they did badly, and then let Edelstein shed some light on why his production feels so fresh.

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