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The play's the thing? : Hamlet, Slings & Arrows, and the authority of theatrical consumption

Hateley, Erica (2007) The play's the thing? : Hamlet, Slings & Arrows, and the authority of theatrical consumption. In Adaptation, from Stage and Page to Screen. Literature/Film Association., 11-14 Oct 2007, Lawrence KS, United States. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This paper reads season 1 of the critically-acclaimed Canadian television series “Slings & Arrows” (2003). This six-episode series is set in a fictionalised version of the Stratford Festival, and tells the story of a plagued production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It follows the play’s rehearsal after the death of the festival’s artistic director; Geoffrey Tennant (himself a plagued Hamlet) takes over the role of director, and must face his past in order to produce a Hamlet that will save the festival, redeem his reputation, and repair his interpersonal relationships. Drawing on popular and theatrical understandings of Shakespeare’s play, the series negotiates tropes of metatheatre, filiality, cultural production and consumption, in order to demonstrate the ongoing relevance and legitimacy of “Shakespeare” in the twenty-first century.

The “Slings & Arrows” narrative revolves around the doubled-plot of Hamlet and the experiences of the company mounting Hamlet. In quite obvious ways, the show thus thematises ways in which Shakespeare can be used to read one’s own life and world. In the broader sense, however, the show also offers theatre/performance as a catalyst for affect. In doing so, the show functions as a relatively straight adaptation of Hamlet, and a metatheatrical/metafictional commentary on the functions of Hamlet within contemporary culture.

In Shakespeare’s play, the production of “The Mouse-Trap” proves, both to Hamlet and the audience, the legitimacy of the ghost’s claims. Similarly, in “Slings & Arrows”, the successful performance of Hamlet legitimises Geoffrey’s position as artistic director of the festival, and affirms for the viewer the value of Shakespearean production in contemporary culture.

In each text, theatre/performance enables and legitimises a son carrying out a dead father’s wishes in order to restore or reproduce socio-cultural order. The metatheatrics of these gestures engage the reader/viewer in a self-reflexive process whereby the ‘value’ of theatre is thematised and performed, and the consumer is positioned as the arbiter and agent of that value: complicit in its production even as they are the site of its consumption.

Impact and interest:

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ID Code: 39106
Item Type: Conference Paper
Keywords: adaptation, Shakespeare
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > STUDIES IN CREATIVE ARTS AND WRITING (190000) > FILM TELEVISION AND DIGITAL MEDIA (190200) > Film and Television (190204)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Past > Schools > School of Cultural & Language Studies in Education
Deposited On: 09 Dec 2010 12:03
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2010 12:05

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