The Prince is under pressure,
though not quite "on the lam" yet.
A Search Party enter
and go chasing after Hamlet!
The arrest scene; Four actors and one reluctant Switzer burst on to the stage to “arrest” Mr Stephens. I only get to do this scene once. That proves to be enough for me. Hamlet is alone on stage. He has mistakenly killed Polonius and hidden his corpse. The King wants the Prince arrested. Suddenly the four stage doors open and the search-party rush in to trap Hamlet. I’m standing terrified behind my door waiting for the cue light to turn green. One of the doors had jammed closed the previous week. The set had vibrated wildly as the actors desperately tried to force it open. The audience had found this a lot funnier than we did. I’m determined not to be caught out. I annoy the stage-hand by asking repeatedly “this door is not locked, is it?”
I receive my cue and yank the door open as hard as I can. Of course it springs open easily and the door crashes – smack! - straight into my nose. Dazed, I step into the bright lights of the stage. My nose is on fire, my eyes are watering. I am convinced from the looks of the other members of the search party that blood must be gushing down my face. We form an aggressive semi-circle around Hamlet. I am trying to remember what happens next. Toby Stephens is in full flight projecting his lines into the Auditorium. I am standing close to him when suddenly I receive a face full of his spit as he delivers another one of Shakespeare’s immortal verses.
Now, I have no doubt that there are members of the acting profession who would crawl on broken glass to enjoy the opportunity to merely stand on the Stratford stage. They would consider it an honour to be drenched in the saliva of such a leading Shakespearian actor. But at that point, I am not a signed-up member of this group. Instead, I really do feel like giving-up: I am in considerable pain, I not sure what happens next and I have just been covered in someone else’s body fluids.