Give the Bard the kindest cut of all, says theatre chief
STAGING uncut Shakespeare plays is a “nonsense”, Sir Nicholas Hytner has said. The former director of the National Theatre said the playwright never intended audiences to sit down to four-and-a-half hours of Hamlet.
Speaking at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, Sir Nicholas said: “There is nothing more anachronistic and less faithful to Shakespeare than the movement for doing it ‘uncut’, every word.
“I’ve seen on several occasions socalled ‘complete’ Hamlets of four-anda-half hours. There is no way a four-and-a-half hour Hamlet was performed during Shakespeare’s life.”
The quarto and folio editions of Shakespeare’s plays were intended to be a “snapshot” of different performances given during and after the Bard’s lifetime, Sir Nicholas said.
He and Simon Russell Beale, the Shakespearean actor, “are absolutely convinced that when Shakespeare, in the chorus of Romeo and Juliet, talks about ‘the two hours’ traffic of our stage’ he probably meant it. We don’t think those plays were ever performed uncut”.
Sir Kenneth Branagh starred in Adrian Noble’s uncut version of Hamlet in 1992. One critic called it “a long evening”.
Sir Nicholas also warned that theatres outside London face a “grim” future as arts funding is cut.
“You’ll find nobody in the arts world who doesn’t think there is an enormous black cloud on the horizon in the shape of Brexit,” he said.