Mark Rylance as Hamlet in HAMLET (Royal Shakespeare Company, 1989). Rylance’s performance as Hamlet was hailed as one of the greatest stage performances critics had ever seen. Some people would argue it was HAMLET that launched Rylance as the greatest, finest classical actor of our time.
One theatre critic attested how powerful Rylance’s potrayal of Hamlet was, that it launched him as the most respected thespian of our time:
…..This was the version in which Rylance, famously clad in filthy striped pyjamas during the ‘antic disposition’ scenes, took the role of the Prince by what you’d have to call brainstorm. After the actor had taken his bows, one of the inmates rushed up to him and said, in hats- off tones, ‘You were really mad – take it from me, I should know, I’m a loony.’
…What amazed many of us, though, was the way this bonkers, alternative comedian of a Prince also managed – thanks to Rylance’s haunted sweetness of countenance and that intense but wary rapport he can build up with an audience – to project Hamlet’s infinite solitariness and injured spirituality better than any contender within memory.
The idea that, in Rylance, we have the finest actor of his generation began to take shape around that time. Next week, in a production that begins at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and then transfers to the Donmar in London, the 34- year-old veteran takes on a new challenge. Swapping parts on different nights with the American actor Michael Rudko, Rylance will get to play both the brothers (the dapper suburban screenwriter and the lumbering, slovenly drifter) who wind up in hapless role-reversal in Sam Shepard’s True West. This seems a good moment, then, to try to take stock of his talent and pinpoint the elements that give his acting its peculiar power. (IS MARK RYLANCE THE FINEST ACTOR OF HIS GENERATION? The Independent, 5 October 1994)
As one reviewer described Rylance’s portrayal of Hamlet: “As to the Prince himself, there was method acting in his madness with Mark Rylance pushing his characterization of the vengeful Hamlet to the full.” -Leamington Morning News (29/04/89)
Another review on Rylance: “He is an angry young man with a grudge, not a prince. In his character he is interesting but unsympathetic… He will joke about anything he can.” – B.A. Young, The Financial Times
Hamlet wore pajamas through-out the whole play, which presented Hamlet in a very different light for the audience to perceive.
Scroll down on RSC’s website for the 1988 Tour/RST 1989 mention.
An interesting photo I found online, of Mark Rylance as Hamlet, wearing those infamous pajamas
Mark Rylance (Hamlet) and Stephanie Roth (Ophelia) in HAMLET, during the 1991 American tour, produced by RSC. This photo was taken from a show in Pittsburgh. (sorry for the very small photo but this was all I could find online)
Information about the 1988-1992 RSC production and U.S tour here.
(Taken from the website)
Stage play by William Shakespeare. Royal Shakespeare Company production. Directed by Ron Daniels.
-1988, September 20-, as part of the RSC/Nat West Tour, Wimbledon.
-1989, April 24-, at the Royal Shakespeare, Stratford.
- 1989, November 23- , at the Barbican.
-1991, November to January 12, 1992, at the Loeb Drama Center, Boston. American Repertory Theater and Pittsburgh Public Theater co-production.
Cast: William Oxborrow (Francisco; Violinist; Second Gravedigger), Ben Miles (Bernardo; A Priest), Neil Richardson (Marcellus), Jack Ellis (Horatio), Russell Enoch (The Ghost; First Player), Peter Wight (Claudius), Clare Higgins (Gertrude), Mark Rylance (Hamlet), Mark Brignal (Valtemand), Peter Carr (Cornelius), Patrick Godfrey (Polonius), John Ramm (Laertes), Rebecca Saire (Ophelia), Andrew Havill (Reynaldo), Andrew Bridgmont (Rosencrantz), Patrick Brennan (Guildenstern), Katherine Stark (Second Player), Roger Tebb (Third Player), Jared Harris (Fortinbras), Hilary Tones (Lady), Michael Howell (Sailor), Jimmy Gardner (First Gravedigger), Paul Lacoux (Osric).
Other Credits: Designed by Anthony McDonald. Lighting by Thomas Webster. Music by Claire Van Kampen. Choreography by Sioban Davies. Musical Director, Michael Tubbs. Sound by John A. Leonard. Fight Director, Alexis Denisof. Assistant director, Matthew Richardson.
Cast and Other Credits: Same as Stratford, except: Patrick Brennan (Guildenstern; Marcellus). Musical Director, Peter Washtell.
Cast: Mark Rylance (Hamlet), Christine Estabrook (Gertrude), Stephanie Roth (Ophelia), Alvin Epstein (Polonius), Derek Smith (Laertes), Jeremy Geidt (First Gravedigger; Voltemand), Thomas Derrah (Rosencrantz), Michael Rudkoe (Guildenstern), Mark Metcalf (Claudius) Steven Skybell (Horatio), Miguel Perez (The Ghost, First Player), Candy Buckley, Jon David Weigand.
Other Credits: Set and costumes, Antony McDonald. Lighting, Frances Aronson. Music, Claire van Kampen. Sound, Maribeth Beck. Fight choreography, Alexis Denisof.
“Finally, the last scene, with its dangerously large number of deaths, is beautifully staged. There is a superb and tense fight (Director Alexis Denisov [sic]) which finally spins out of control. Gertrude’s death happens almost incidentally, the court far too busy escaping Laertes’ and Hamlet’s foils to notice.” (complete text) -Plays and Players, June 1989, by Rod Dungate.
“The duel scene was extremely efficient and its rhythm was perfectly kept by all the performers. Dressed in turn-of-the-century fencing outfits, Laertes and Hamlet follow very deliberate and acrobatic duelling figures, akin to the old Erroll Flynn tradition of Robin Hood fencing.” (complete text) -Cahiers Elisabethains, October 1989, by Luc Borot.
“And there is, at the end, some really spectacular swordplay, blades cuttingblood out of the air as Hamlet and Laertes slash their way to ‘silence.’” (complete text) -Boston Globe, November 29, 1991, by Kevin Kelly.
- Guardian, April 28, 1989, by Michael Billington.
- Independent, April 28, 1989, by Peter Kemp.
- City Limits, May 11, 1989, by Lyn Gardner.
- Daily Telegraph, April 28, 1989, by Michael Schmidt.
- Sunday Telegraph, April 30, 1989, by John Gross.
- Tribune, May 12, 1989, by Rod Dungate.
- Time Out, May 10, 1989, by Paul Arnott.
- Daily Mail, April 27, 1989, by Jack Tinker.
- Daily Express, May 1, 1989, by Maureen Paton.
- Financial Times, April 28, 1989, by B.A. Young.
- Daily Mail, November 24, 1989, by Shaun Usher.
- Evening Standard, November 24, 1989, by Milton Shulman.
- Independent, November 25, 1989, by Paul Taylor.
- Daily Telegraph, November 26, 1989, by Charles Osborne.
- Mail on Sunday, November 26, 1989, by Kenneth Hurren.
-Sunday Telegraph, November 26, 1989, by John Gross.
- Guardian, November 26, 1989, by Nicholas de Jongh.
- What’s On, November 29, 1989, by Catherine Wearing.
- Time Out, November 29, 1989, by Steve Grant.
- City Limits, November 30, 1989, by Carl Miller.
- Jewish Chronicle, December 1, 1989, by David Nathan.
- Punch, December 8, 1989, by Rhoda Koenig.