Having worked—read "lived, breathed and died"—in theatre for a little over a decade, I'll never be what you would call a passive observer of the action taking place on a stage. In fact I'm probably the person you least want to sit beside when you're in the audience of your local community theatre's production of anything. If you thought the critic from your paper was a snot, before the first scene is over you'll probably want to have me physically removed from the theatre. If it's not the muttering under my breath about incompetent actors who shouldn't be allowed on stage, it will be because of the constant shifting around in my seat as I fight the urge to stand up and demand the show be closed down.
And that's just for those occasions when people are hacking their way through summer stock fare like Noel Coward or Neil Simon. When it comes to anybody foolish enough to try and attempt even the simplest of Shakespeare's work, thinking if Mel can do it why can't I, I turn from being merely insufferable to deranged. Usually the only difficulty I'm faced with under those circumstances is figuring out what is pissing me off the most, the fact nobody understands what they're saying or how they attack their speeches like sprinters attempting a world record in the 100 meters.
I refuse to apologize for any appearance of snobbery or elitism these attitudes might convey, for having experienced the magic and wonder of seeing Shakespeare performed by those who know how to speak the language, anything less is tantamount to sacrilege. Unfortunately the opportunities to see these works performed at those standards are few and far between if you don't live in a major metropolitan area or a community like Stratford, Ontario, which hosts a professional Shakespearean festival every year.
Well, if you can't go to Shakespeare the next best thing is to bring it into your home. The new two-disc DVD package of Discovering Hamlet, from the Acorn Media Group, provides the viewer with not only a chance to see great actors at work, but also some insight into what goes on prior to what you see on stage opening night. The first disc is a documentary made of the rehearsal process for a 1988 production of Hamlet directed by Derek Jacobi and starring Kenneth Branagh. The second disc features extra footage from the film, including extended versions of the interviews with the actors in the play, choreographing the stage fight between Hamlet and Laertes that ends the play, and hanging out backstage with the actors at the opening night party.