Pictures are by Richard Campbell.
My main project for August and September is HAMLET at Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre, directed by Guy Hollands. This runs from the 20th September till the 6th of October and features Andy Clark in the title role.
Andy is a regular at the Citz and also played the lead in the hugely successful No Mean City, on which I was fight director last year.
For me the Hamlet fight is ostensibly a rapier fight sequence. There’s textual evidence in the play referring to the weapons as foils, and I take this to refer to (not the modern sporting weapon) but a training weapon of Shakespeare’s own time. Textual evidence is only half the game however as I must also take into account the wishes of the director and the designer on the subject of weapons. The director and designer both wish this to be a heavier dirtier play, tangibly “rough” and ready. Because of this I’ve veered the fight away from later thrust based play to an earlier cut and thrust style. Frankly this is more interesting to an audience with far more cuts than thrusts giving a more showy, slower and therefor more easy to follow sequence. It’ll get dirtier toward the end with the change of swords and a more hand to hand style leading to Hamlet’s killing of Leartes and the King. I’m blocking the fight at the moment using a basic sabre style and will tweak and alter as the actors become more confident to a more recognizable, period rapier style. Once the actors start to feel the blade play, get used to the heft of the swords and the shift in balance with the lighter training weapons they will be far more open to accept new movements etc suitable for a period fight.
So I thought it was going to be simple… The week before the play went up Andy Clarke broke his right wrist in a 5 aside football match. So what happened next? Well the fight shifted back to the lighter training weapons I’d been using initially and Andy had to learn the fight again. This time left handed, but with suitable tweaks to make his life more simple. Hamlet is a big part to play at the best of times and remembering an overly complicated fight sequence was really not going to happen. Instead I gave most of the sword play to Leartes and made Hamlets style of fighting somewhat more casual. Did this affect the production, dragging it down into a dull dull place? Not at all. The Times described the fight as it was eventually staged as possibly the best fight sequence that (the critic) had seen on stage in years.
Sometimes you have to make your own luck!