Hamlet taunts Ophelia,
He says he wants to shag her.
The play stops - it all "kicks-off";
The Prince whips out his dagger.
This is the famous "play-within-the play" scene. A band of travelling actors enact a piece for the Court that mirrors the death of Hamlet’s father. There a four positions for the Switzers in this scene. There are two standing behind the King and Queen. Another Switzer stands guard at the back of the stage. Then later in the scene, a Switzer makes an entrance to Ophelia’s rear as she sits with Hamlet opposite the Throne.
The section is interpreted brilliantly by Mr Boyd. His insight is that throughout history Kings (and Presidents) have been assassinated in the theatre: it makes sense for Claudius to be nervous in this public place with an unstable Hamlet. In our rehearsal, Toby delivered the “to be or not to be” speech in the middle of this scene just after the King has risen to stop the Players. This famous monologue muses on the attraction of suicide and is normally delivered earlier in the play. When delivered here it has a far greater impact.
Hamlet believes that he has tricked the King into revealing how his father was murdered. The King has responded by calling for his Switzer’s to protect him. The tension is extreme. It seems that the each has broken cover and now the death of one of them is the only resolution. I’m reminded of Michael Collins’ comment: "I tell you, I have signed my own death warrant." It is powerful theatre.
The direction is that the rest of the cast are to stand motionless: time is frozen and we are a stationary relief to the struggle deep within Hamlet. They only problem is that standing stock-still for the minutes it takes for Mr Stephens to deliver the speech is beyond me. I want to blink, I want to sneeze .. most of all I need to move.