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Photos are by Cylla von Tiedemann and are by special permission of The Stratford Festival of Canada. They are not to be reproduced elsewhere.
Hamlet, starring Paul Gross in the title role, ran at the Stratford Festival from 29th May - 5th November 2000. This production, directed by Joseph Ziegler, marked a welcome return to the stage for Paul following an extensive period in film and television work. For full cast and production details, go to our theatre page.
Click on each picture below to see a larger version.
Paul said ...
"Hamlet is us. He's me when I'm playing him, he's you when you're watching. That's why the play is so great and long-lasting. When you see me, it stirs the Hamlet in you and in the 1,800 people sitting in the audience."
"Hamlet demands everything of you, so you give him everything, and if you're boring, it means you're just a boring person. The audience gets to know you very well, and if they don't like you, it's you they don't like."
"I had the idea I was in some sort of good shape from working the kinds of hours I did on television production, but that's nothing like this. It's a marathon."
"The emotional extremes are just gigantic. And his mind is like nothing else ever written. It's the fastest, most electric brain in literature, and trying to stay with his shifts and changes is a real struggle. I'm not dumb, but I feel stupid. It's like that roadrunner cartoon. You almost catch up and zing, he takes off on you again."
"It's never predictable, and I don't think I ever do any two scenes the same way. They change pretty much performance to performance. Which is a bit odd when you first start doing it, because I think actors are accustomed to settling into a certain kind of pattern, which I tried to do, and discovered that it just doesn't allow you to do that. It keeps demanding that it be absolutely alive."
"Bored? No. I think it was Olivier who said that he could play it for a hundred years and find something new each night. It is bottomless and endlessly challenging and constantly rewarding. Never bored. No."
"I dread the final performance. Thus far, this has been the greatest privilege of my career and it is with regret that I cross off a performance day on my calendar."
The critics said ...
"Here is a rebel with a cause, James Dean on a collision course with the establishment." - Scene Changes
"The evening belongs to Gross. This is a charismatic performance that communicates directly with the audience. Gross rides the verse with confidence and apparent ease, with awkward pauses and misphrasings so rare as to be almost nonexistent." - Toronto Star
"Gross's madcap look at the melancholy prince makes for a fascinating, insightful and downright invigorating evening of theatre ... He never lets us lose sight of the fact that his fluttering fingers and fast-paced quips - and there are moments when he veers into something akin to a nihilistic nincompoop - are grounded in grief. Just when you think he's come completely unglued, Gross jolts us back on track with a quiet bit of clarity." - London Free Press
"This is a performance of intelligence, authority and macabre wit. It also has lucidity: with Gross, even the most difficult verse emerges with unusual clarity and an almost naturalistic flow." - Calgary Herald
"He relishes in the role, bringing to it charisma and charm. At times, Gross seems to verge on being over-the-top, but then deftly withdraws, keeping the audience captivated.
Most importantly, Gross makes the language of the play come alive. He does not merely recite words, but rather, transmits messages with fervour and honesty. The result is intense, revealing Shakespeare's mastery of the English language and his insights into human psychology." - University of Western Ontario Gazette
"Rarely has the motivation for Hamlet's bizarre behaviour been made so shockingly clear: the prince is literally haunted by his father - injected with a psychosis that continually erupts throughout the play. There are really two Hamlets here: the placid exterior one and the seething, unknown Hamlet inside, a creature of fear, guilt and rage. Gross plays these two brilliantly against themselves, and in the process takes us inside Hamlet as few actors have been able to." - Maclean's
The audience said ...
"This is the first production of Hamlet that I've seen where the physical acting of the part of Hamlet conveyed as much of the story to the audience as the recitation of the dialogue ... Most amazing was the humorous element that came through at various times during the play. Paul Gross definitely has a gift for comic timing for it to mesh so well in the midst of a tragedy. And he is a very physical actor. The scene with the King's ghost comes to mind and the sword match at the end." - E Reeser
"Laura Burton's orchestration perfectly underscores each scene transition with simplicity at its best. It wonderfully adheres to the production's admirable desire to remain true to the text. The music neither overpowers nor dominates, but rather provides an enjoyable backdrop." - S Clemens
"It was truly a production of Hamlet that pulled me in and wrapped me around its finger and left me feeling and thinking things that I haven't thought of in a while. And isn't that one of the things true drama or entertainment or acting or whatever you want to call it, is supposed to do? Somehow affect us on an individual level, make us see and think of things a little differently, or to do as Hamlet instructs, "To hold a mirror up to nature" to show how things really are - or how things could be? For me, I felt this production did just that. And so how could I but help to thoroughly enjoy it?" - M Morris
Have you ever wondered what happened next? We have the answer! Read And How Is Hamlet? (from Hamlet, Part II by Perry Pontac)