Frances De La Tour on her role as Hamlet
A great British actress talks Shakespeare
Hello, I'm Francis De La Tour and I'm an actor. Over the centuries a number of female actors have played Hamlet. Not many I have to say, but a few Sarah Bernhardt, perhaps being the most well known. I found the role of Hamlet very challenging, not for the reason you might expect, but for the sheer breadth of the role physically and emotionally. It's true. I was playing a young man though I didn't play it in a masculine way nor as a woman, but rather as an emotionally tortured young person, a youth struggling to understand his own predicament. Hamlet has the best soliloquies in the English language. And I let the poetry speak for itself. It was particularly challenging too, because our production at the then Half Moon theatre in Tower Hamlets was a promenade production, which means we didn't have a single stage as such, but a series, three or four at the most, of platforms on which we would perform different scenes and the audience, which was not seated, they stood throughout would promenade to the different stages or platforms to watch us. At the beginning of the play, the actors were on ground level with the audience so we were almost rubbing shoulders with them. This whole interaction with the audience and proximity was both nerve wracking and very stimulating. We found out later that, far from the audience being made to feel self-conscious, they found the experience very freeing. I remember I cried after the last performance, as I knew, I would never say those wonderful words of the young Hamlet ever again.