Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

To be or not to be in Lakewood? Marowitz is there

Cleveland Press July 28 1972

What has come to be known as "The Marowitz Hamlet" is Shakespeare's "Hamlet" cut up in little pieces a n d pasted back together. Speeches appear out of order or are spoken by different characters.

The man responsible for this seeming jigsaw is Charles Marowitz who arrived from London the other day to direct his play at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival where it will open Aug. 9.

"I always wanted to express the essence of "Hamlet" without telling that tired old story," Marowitz explained as he recounted the history of his play.

MAROWITZ IS a New Yorker who has been involved with the London theater since 1958. That involvement included the Royal Shakespeare Company with English director Peter Brooks.

"In 1965 Brooks and were working with an experimental group of about 10 people within the Royal Shakespeare Company," he continued. In the course of this Peter suggested I ought to do a Hamlet experiment, which is something I always wanted to do.

"I pieced it together and it ran about 30 minutes. It was done as part of the Royal Shakespeare Company's Theater of Cruelty season in London.

"AT THAT POINT I was unhappy with it. It was only a pastiche, a charade of 'Hamlet.' I worked on it some more and in its new form, about an hour long, it was done at the Berlin Festival of Experimental Theater.

"It had an interesting reaction. People booed or screamed or applauded. It was a success or failure depending at what part of the house you looked.

'The leading critic in Berlin attacked it. A group of students then attacked the critic. He also was reviewing on radio and they demanded equal time.

"THEN IT toured Italy, played the Rome Festival and played in Parma and Aquila. I had added 10 minutes more to it by then. After that it went back to London.

"The play is not set. It's always subject to revision. One never gets it right. It's never been done to my satisfaction. It's like taking on the heavyweight champion. You're always losing but sometimes you get a better edge.

"The advantage of doing something like this in London is that the tradition is so solid that it's possible to get more interest. In the United States extremity in experimental theater is often for its own sake.

"IN ENGLAND they're more serious and there's a point of reference. The less you know about the play. the more confusing it will be.

"I have some qualms about doing here. I don't know how well they know 'Hamlet' in Lakewood.

"I have a theory, however. I don't know that it's true but I think people know 'Hamlet' even without ever. having seen it. Most people know it's about a man who couldn't make up his mind.

"I DIDN'T WRITE anything in this version. Every word is Shakespeare's. It's just that they have been completely rearranged and are out of sequence."

Marowitz went to London in 1956 to attend the London Academy and has been working in that city and on the continent ever since.

"When I left here we were in the midst of the McCarthy era. The theater was dying in New York. But it was a high watermark year in London. People like John Osborne and Joan Littlewood were working. It seemed natural to stay.

MAROWITZ HAS worked in the London equivalent of New York 's off-Broadway theater, has presented not only the first English productions of many American playwrights but sometimes the first productions anywhere. Currently he has a theater company called the Open Space.

"It's non-commercial, and no one makes more than 15 pounds a week. To make ends meet I go out and direct productions in Sweden and Germany."

The writer-director also serves as theater critic for several English publications and is London correspondent for the New York Times and the Village Voice. He sees no problem in working both sides of the theatrical street.

"I WAS a little tense at first, writing criticism when I was involved in the theater. But after a while you get used to it, everyone does. A lot of people do it.

"One problem is that often you will like something and not write about it for fear that someone will think you are writing a puff for the play."

Marowitz starts rehearsals this week, will remain here for the opening and for several additional performances.

There is no evidence that he will review the play as well.