conceptual productions and critical reception, part one.

Conceptual productions.  Oy.

What have I always said about them?  I’ve always said, ‘Maybe your concept should just be to tell the best story possible.’  I’m still saying it.

Below, you’ll find links to two reviews on the newest conceptual Shakespeare production in London – Ian Rickson’s ‘Hamlet’ at The Young Vic.  Reading these together (in either order) is a fascinating look at two seasoned critics working through the problems of a disappointing production.  Unfounded, under-developed concepts can easily drown good storytelling despite even the most valiant individual performance, and both men seem to agree that Michael Sheen gives a fine Hamlet in a production that doesn’t float.

Michael Billington – Guardian – 3 stars – firm but even.

Billington responds to the idea that emoting isn’t what sells the emotion of Shakespeare (hint:  it’s the text itself, and the rhythms it holds).  He also quotes the newest Arden edition, which suggests to me that scholars should be careful of their critical responses when attached to a play text OR that scholars and practitioners need to be in conversation about the reaches and practical impact of those critical ideas.  (I’d say, to be safe, do both.)

Charles Spencer – Telegraph – 2 stars – scathing and emotional.

Some of Spenser’s negative language:  irritated, cheated, mindless, egotistical, dubious, infuriating, tiresome, settling, embarrassingly inept, meddle so disastrously.

All of his positive language:  Sheen…could be right up there with the great Hamlets, charismatic, winning wit, affecting, usually such a fine director.


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