I’m a Sucker for a Good Family Drama
Reviewing Hamlet’s play within a play
As a theater critic, I like to think I have been privy to a wide variety of productions. I know that a certain amount of forgiveness must always be granted when seeing live theater, but the recent performance of The Murder of Gonzago (aka The Mousetrap) playing at Elsinore Castle has been the most egregious example of unprofessionalism I have ever encountered.
The play, a riveting family drama about a man who kills his brother and then seduces his brother’s widow, certainly promised to be a fascinating show. I must admit, I am a sucker for a good family drama (I’ll see as many productions of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf as I can!) However, throughout the performance a young man was constantly running around, making lewd jokes and talking to audience members about the play while the play was happening. I tried to ignore it and focus on the actors, but once he started talking about what was about to happen in the story, I decided enough was enough. I found a security guard to tell them that they needed to escort this man out, but they informed me that they could do no such thing as he was the writer/director. Well, Samuel Beckett this man was not! I don’t know if it was some immersive theater experiment or just some bold “artistic choice” but I found it very distracting.
Thankfully, the actors continued their great work. The tension built up and finally we were getting to the emotional core of the show, but alas the spell of the theater would be broken yet again by a particularly rude audience member. This theatergoer had the audacity to stand up and scream about stopping the show and turning on the lights. I thought that perhaps this interruption was also part of the play, maybe some kind of commentary on the audience as an active participant in the theatrical experience, but I was sorely mistaken. As the actors left the stage and people shuffled out of the theater, I realized that it wasn’t a high-concept staging idea, just a loud heckler.
I once again asked the usher why they didn’t just escort this perturbed man out of the theater, and they informed me that he was the owner of the theater. Frankly, I find it unfashionable to use your privilege to end a performance you don’t like. Maybe if I donated enough money to own The Old Vic, I would have had the power to halt a particularly tasteless production of A Doll’s House I saw in 2015, but I like to think I have a bit more class than that!
My readers know that I am usually a mild-mannered person, but I can assure you I walked right up to the staff and told them how disappointed I was. As I was airing my grievances, the owner of the theater came barreling through the lobby, visibly shaken, and I noticed that the writer/director didn’t even look upset that his play was disrupted midway through! Dare I say it, but he actually seemed rather excited, vindicated even. I mean, call me crazy, but it almost seemed as if the entire play was an elaborate ruse set up for entirely personal reasons and not at all produced for the love of theater and appreciation for the performing arts.
That being said, the costumes were lovely and the seats had ample leg room, so one star.