I AM HAMLET by Steven Berkoff


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Americans know Berkoff primarily as the director of Baryshnikov in the anomalous Broadway production of Kafka's Metamorphosis. In Europe, however, his 1979-81 production of Hamlet turned more than a few heads, not only because of its experimental approach to the classic, but because Berkoff directed--and played the leading role. As this Hamlet ""production diary"" shows, Berkoff's effort was propelled by arrogance and courage in equal measure. Frequently, he takes the opportunity to rail against wooden past productions of the play (particularly those mounted by the RSC), the current tendency for directors to steal the limelight from actors (even Peter Brook gets a bashing), and the playwright himself, who, according to Berkoff, erred in creating characters that ""tend to be cardboard cutouts designed to make Hamlet look good."" Traditionalists will be appalled at Berkoff's irreverent attitude toward the text, which has been radically cut (sometimes, it seems, precisely to make Hamlet look good). But actors and directors approaching this most difficult of plays should be interested to learn just how Berkoff staged it and what he took each line to mean--both literally and emotionally. What is missing in this very personal promptbook, however, is a record of the process by which the staged results were arrived at--as in Anthony Sher's much more satisfying The Year of the King (1987--not reviewed). Furthermore, this line-by-line dissection of the text will prove rough going for those who didn't actually see Berkoff's Hamlet, since the author's prose is often too vague or blustery to be descriptive. In short, ""My kingdom for a videotape.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1990
ISBN: 0802132243
Publisher: Grove Weidenfeld