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|GR: Sophie Thompson on Ophelia, etc.
Written by Kristen G.
(5/21/2003 7:44 p.m.)
I have a copy of a BBC radio production of Hamlet starring Kenneth Branagh. With it was a little booklet with quotes from the various actors on their parts. I thought I'd copy the quotes about Polonius, Ophelia, and Laertes and if you would like to read the rest I'd be glad to post them.
Richard Briers on Polonius:
"Polonius is not a fool - he's cunning and has the spy's practiced slyness, but he also provides a bit of light relief. You mustn't cod it. There's no need to over-colour the part, you just play it straight down the middle. Polonius certainly knows the game and he always keeps his ear to the ground - it's the nature of the beast. He knows which way the wind is blowing and he keeps well in with the King - perhaps he acted as Campaign Manager to Claudius in the royal election but he still grates on their Majesties' nerves - he's such a windbag.
"There is genuine affection for his children and he is a conscientious father, but there is also the need to be a figure of authority towards them and to exercise control over them. He is a politician and he has the politician's rhinoceros hide which helps him bear all Hamlet's insults."
Sophie Thompson on Ophelia:
"It's odd coming back to a part you have played on stage, but I still want to avoid the stereotype of the girl with flowers in her faery hair. From the start, she lives in a world where she is totally controlled. She has already reached a point where her emotional life is quite brittle and liable to be damaged...she's already a big wobbly. Remember that she and Hamlet have exchanged love tokens and that to some extent he has committed himself to her. She is used as a pawn in the get-thee-to-a-nunnery scene, she is trapped by her father. Yet, instead of sympathy, she receives nothing but abuse from Hamlet.
"She has a great deal of spirit - otherwise Hamlet would never had loved her - but her reactions to him are fuelled by fear and insecurity. Her conversation with Hamlet during the Players' scene is not made up of clever-clever wisecracks but is full of desperation. She has to be at a social occasion when her guts are spilling out - she is trying desperately to keep control by doing ordinary things while her world falls apart around her."
James Wilby on Laertes:
"It's a tricky part, although I enjoy the challenge of going straight into such a highly-charged scene. Scarcely has Laertes returned to Elsinore than he has to cope with his sister's madness and then suicide, as well as comes to terms with his father's death. He's basically straight, a man of honour, and in a sense his situation mirrors that of Hamlet - both have lost their fathers in strange circumstances. His downfall lies in his passion of revenge which allows Claudius to manipulate him and so he becomes involved in a scheme which he would have otherwise refused.
"I love the leave-taking scene with Ophelia. To an extent he is judging Hamlet as he judges himself. He knows how men can behave and he doesn't want his sister to be hurt. I should think that most of us at some stage in our lives have had to issue that kind of warning, and Laertes is full of good advice.
"I rather like his reaction to the news of Ophelia's death. In moments of grief, people do say the oddest things and his 'oh, where?' sounds silly, but is part of his general reaction."
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