Wednesday, May 03, 2006


"Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel"

Only four days before they were due to leave South Africa, Brett Goldin, a much-loved member of the Baxter Company who was about to play Guildenstern, was murdered in a senseless car-jacking. It is a tribute to the bravery and resilience of the company that they decided to come to Stratford, dedicating the run to the memory of Brett. said of him,

"He was relentlessly and infectiously optimistic, always maintaining faith in others, in the goodness of the world and in the ultimate success of his own destiny. His unflagging enthusiasm inspired those around him, and his passion — especially for music and film — was palpable."

The Baxter Company made an immediate impact on the town and the RSC, taking over and galvanising the usually sedate Thistle Hotel, and boosting the bar takings of The Dirty Duck to record levels. And they could act; their Hamlet, directed by Janet Suzman, who is appearing as Volumnia in Corolianus later in the year, played to packed houses and critical acclaim. They also beat the RSC at cricket - see Post of 5/04/06.

Here's what Michael Billington wrote in The Guardian,

"What comes across strongly is the contrast between Arumugam's refined sensibility and the spiritual coarseness of the world he inhabits. This is a Hamlet who goes into a meditative chant before deciding on the entrapment of Claudius and who soothes the terrified Ophelia after frightening her with a dagger: in contrast Kani's Claudius urges Laertes to requite his father's death with a brutal blow to the abdomen. But Arumugam is a Hamlet too intelligent to believe that revenge constitutes a meaningful redress.
In that sense, this is a highly traditional Hamlet. But it is given new life by the variety of the acting, which ranges from Dorothy Ann Gould's morally awakened Gertrude to Roshina Ratnam's disintegrating Ophelia moving from virginal shyness to literal breast-baring in the mad scenes. I may have seen more revelatory Hamlets. But this production shows Shakespeare makes total sense in a South African political context."

Personal Star Rating [out of five] ***/****

The Baxter Company left on May the 7th - Deborah Shaw and I waved them goodbye after tearful farewells and a chorus of Shosholoza on the steps of the Thistle. They will be missed.


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