This Philistine watched Hamlet last night, or at least half of it. Purely out of curiosity to see how Maxine Peake, developing into a first-rate actor, methinks, perchance, handled the lead part.
Whisper it gently, but this Philistine, a longstanding guillaumeophobe, enjoyed it. Not enough to take the whole 217 minutes in a single sitting, but through the two-hour mark. We'll watch the rest tonight and I am looking forward to it.
One thing that becomes clearer with every passing day is how absolutely awful the teaching at St Pat's secondary school in Coatbridge was. We were taught to pass exams, yes, very successfully in some cases, but we were not taught to learn, or enjoy.
I've always associated Shakespeare with endless tedium in English classes as lengthy passages were read with great difficulty by classmates who lacked any warmth or passion in their readings. The way Margaret says it was taught at St Bride's in East Kilbride, listening to actors playing a few scenes, then reading them and dissecting and groping for some comprehension, sounds a lot more fun...
As a more or less mature adult (bad news, Margaret, I'm as mature now as I'm ever likely to be) with some knowledge of literature and language and a bit of history and having watched Game of Thrones at some length, I heard stuff in the text that I'd never have suspected.
At about 18 minutes into the first act, for example, Shakespeare in effect interrupted his text to say something that I heard as the direct equivalent of: coming up next, in Hamlet, you thought it was good so far, just wait to hear and see what's in store for you. It was like listening to hype for a Sky programme.
Later, pushing towards the two-hour mark, when we are watching a play within the play, he has people saying things almost exactly like: where have I seen that actor before? Then he starts making references to Julius Caesar and other works. I swear he was in effect advertising up and coming productions in which the actor in question would also be appearing. When you treat the text as alive, it becomes alive.
WHY DIDN'T THEY TEACH US THAT?
As a result, this Philistine will be keeping an eye for other Shakespeare productions on Sky Arts or on DVD...one small step for man, one giant leap for Philistines.