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Performing Hamlet : Actors in the Modern Age - Jonathan Croall

Performing Hamlet

Actors in the Modern Age

By: Jonathan Croall

Paperback | 23 January 2018

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Hamlet is arguably the most famous play on the planet, and the greatest of all Shakespeare's works. Its rich story and complex leading role have provoked intense debate and myriad interpretations.
To play such a uniquely multi-faceted character as Hamlet represents the supreme challenge for a young actor. Performing Hamlet contains Jonathan Croall's revealing in-depth interviews with five distinguished actors who have played the Prince this century:
  • Jude Law: 'You get to speak possibly the most beautiful lines about humankind ever given to an actor.'
  • Simon Russell Beale: 'Hamlet is a very hospitable role: it will take anything you throw at it.'
  • David Tennant: 'No other part has been so satisfying. It was tough, but utterly compelling.'
  • Maxine Peake: 'Hamlet was a way of accessing bits of me as an actress I've not been able to access before.'
  • Adrian Lester: 'Working with Peter Brook on Hamlet changed me as an actor, and for the better.'
The book benefits from the author's interviews with six leading directors of the play during these years: Greg Doran, Nicholas Hytner, Michael Grandage, John Caird, Sarah Frankcom and Simon Godwin. Many other productions are described, from those starring Michael Redgrave, Alec Guinness and Paul Scofield in the 1950s, to the performances of Benedict Cumberbatch, Andrew Scott and Paapa Essiedu in recent times. The volume also includes an updated text of the author's earlier book Hamlet Observed, and an account of actors' experiences of performing at Elsinore.

About the Author

Jonathan Croall is a distinguished biographer and theatre historian. He is the author of over twenty books, notably the acclaimed biographies John Gielgud: Matinee Idol to Movie Star (Bloomsbury Methuen Drama) and Sybil Thorndike: A Star of Life.<.i> His other titles include The Coming of Godot: A Short History of a Masterpiece (short-listed for the 2005 Theatre Book Prize); The Wit and Wisdom (and Gaffes) of John Gielgud and In Search of Gielgud: A Biographer's Tale; two collections of his theatre journalism, Buzz Buzz! Playwrights, Actors and Directors at the National Theatre and Closely Observed Theatre: From the National to the Old Vic; and three books in the series The National Theatre at Work – Hamlet Observed, Peter Hall's 'Bacchai', and Inside the Molly House.
Industry Reviews
In Performing Hamlet Croall gives a glimpse into preparing and performing the role of Hamlet ... Croall's examination is not purely academic: he enriches it with interviews of five actors and six directors engaged in productions of Hamlet. This makes the text much more appealing and applicable to the modern actor/director. Chapter 9 offers an extensive "day in the life" look at the 2000 National Theatre production with Simon Russell Beale as Hamlet. This chapter helps convey the fast-paced life of the professional actor in preparation, performance, and touring ... This is a solid and fresh study for actors/directors and those researching the production history of Hamlet. Summing Up: Recommended. * Choice *
An extremely impressive work which will be of great interest not only to actors and directors tackling this most demanding of plays but also to people studying Hamlet as a work of literature. * Shiny New Books *
This absorbing study embraces an extraordinary range of directorial and acting approaches to the Himalayan challenges offered by the play. As might be expected in the light of his magisterial biographies of John Gielgud and Sybil Thorndike, Croall's account of the phenomenon that is the play is superbly researched. It is hard to do justice to such a rich array of viewpoints. * Australian Book Review *
I'm so glad to see such a detailed analysis of the work Simon Russell Beale and I did together. The book looks very handsome and has been much admired. * John Caird *
I had a wonderful time reading the book. All the chapters are fascinating. * Simon Godwin *
'Tracking more than 70 years of a range of actors tackling one of the biggest roles in theatre, Jonathan Croall's insightful Performing a look often not just behind the scenes, but deeper than that. A reflection of the cost, and the catalytic energy, making theatre and performances takes on those who have dedicated their lives to it. And that is what I go to theatre books for.' -- David Byrne, a judge of The Society for Theatre Research's 2019 Theatre Book Prize

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