Grows aslant a brook

Monday 30th July 2012

HELD up by a tailback near Newbury, Hamlet is almost two hours late, missing learning the courtly dance. But it matters not if our Prince is out of step: all part of his ‘turbulent and dangerous lunacy’.

Rosencrantz has come with matching baseball caps for herself and Guildenstern. I send them off to read Stoppard’s game of questions. They return having devised their own version – and a nifty, jocular entrance: good lads, not at all the ‘indifferent children of the earth’.

Bernardo (now Bernarda) is thinking ahead.

“Will there be time tomorrow for me to write Hamlet’s poem into his notebook?”

She takes it home, knows all her words by Wednesday morning.

Our young Swiss actress is struggling to pronounce the name Laertes. She’s not at all disappointed when I give some of her lines to the Chorus: for which relief many thanks.

“Take him a letter instead. Say ‘My lord Laertes!’ when you give it to him.”

She grins.

I’m easily irritated by off-stage noise or if lines are spoken when on-stage action means they won’t be heard. Quick costume changes lead to the plastic-clatter of coat-hangers being dropped. Somebody suggests draping them over the rack instead. Why didn’t I think of that?

I explain to Gertrude her additional rôle as the players’ matriarch. Hamlet now pauses after hurling his sword across the floor: the dread echo of ‘accidental judgments, casual slaughters’. With a slow grace, Polonius and Bernarda shut the heavy, creaking screen, to the soprano duet of Delibes’ Sous le dôme épais.

I think it’s shaping up nicely,” Claudius concludes, when I ask the company for their thoughts half-way through the week. It’s a shame the others cannot witness his brilliant, manic twisting of the crown during the dream scherzo.

Working with my choreographer daughter, Ophelia stands, poised, on the shelf of a pew, hanging coronet weeds before her fall into the stream.

We watch in rapt silence as Chorus sets the scene: “There is a willow grows aslant a brook.”

I cannot choose but weep.







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