Give the Bard the kind­est cut of all, says theatre chief

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Anita Singh ARTS AND EN­TER­TAIN­MENT ED­I­TOR

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.

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