"Hamlet has a wonderful line just before the duel scene, 'Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes, let be'. And just that little 'let be' describes so much of this tour. We're in places for such a short amount of time, that you really have no other option but to try to exist as best you can in the moment you're in."
Before his final performance in the role of Hamlet, Naeem looks back what he's learned about his character, himself, and what lines will stick with him.
Time: 8 minutes 17 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Rona Kelly: In the production, obviously you play Hamlet.
Naeem Hayat: I try my best! I try...!
RK: You 'play' Hamlet! What have you learned about the character in the two years that you've been performing this role?
NH: God...you know what's funny is that...I don't think I've learned enough. I think that's the beautiful thing about both Hamlet the man and Hamlet the play and, in truth, why I think it was Hamlet that Dominic [Dromgoole] chose to travel around the world. It was I think, because even after two years, you still have moments of, 'Oh, dammit. It should have been that. Oh maybe it's this or maybe it's more like this or maybe you can play this more and think about that more'. And you're constantly digging and exploring for new things.
So what I think about him as a person has grown and morphed and changed so much. I think at his core, he's an incredibly sensitive, bright, young man with an incredible mind, an incredibly alive mind. Sometimes so alive that it's to his own detriment. He's so sensitive to the world around him and he's very good at picking apart lies that it's always a joy to go on that journey. Just to be able to get to say those words are such a wonderful thing, because you always leave the stage thinking, 'That's another time that I've said 'To be or not to be' or 'What a piece of work is a man''. You realise it's just so beautifully crafted those speeches that Shakespeare has somehow managed to encapsulate all of human existence and worries and fears and thoughts and he's managed to craft them into some very beautiful language and thoughts that we simply I don't think can articulate ourselves like that. And so it's really lovely to be able to live in that for a bit,, two and a half hours.
RK: Is there a particular line which you think will stick with you?
NH: So many, so many not just from Hamlet but also from everyone else. I think one that always sticks out for me is, 'There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so'. That's always something that really stings, it's always such a present thought in my mind, that line, because it's so true. We view the world through our own thoughts and feelings about it. Kind of such an easy, simple way of putting such a complex, human feeling.
RK: And leading off of a question earlier, what have you learned about yourself in the last two years?
NH: I'm tired! I need more sleep! I think I've learned more to...Hamlet has a wonderful line just before the duel scene, 'Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is't to leave betimes, let be'. And just that little 'let be' is such a...in a funny way, it describes so much of this tour. Because we're in places for such a short amount of time and we travel so quickly, that you really have no other option but to try to exist as best you can in the moment you're in and not think about the next place or the place you've just been too much. You're allowing those thoughts to shape themselves over time which I think, hopefully, they will, but I think we've all as a company become very good at allowing ourselves to just be in the craziness of the moment. And I think that's a really valuable thing for any person really, to have that as a motto is I think probably a much more sane way to live!
RK: This is Dominic's last series of performances this weekend. What's it been like working with him and the rest of the team, especially the ones who've been travelling with you for the whole stint?
NH: Incredible, incredible. I think the spirit that Dominic has created in this theatre is truly magical. There are not many theatres I think in London or indeed in the country that have had so many brilliant times in this theatre, when you come in very early in the morning and you may be tired, but then there are a bunch of ten year old school kids doing soliloquies in the foyer. Or later that night you'll see somebody talking to a groundling with enormous amounts of pathos and calm and connection. And that's another thing, I think what Dominic's done so beautifully is break down the barrier between the audience and the actor which I think, especially in a space like this, makes for such a much more intimate and personalised experience. I mean I think he's slightly lunatic! Having the idea of sending one production to every country in the world! But what's so brilliant about Dominic's vision is that it's been so brazen and bold and flying in the face of all kinds of I imagine people and policies saying, 'No, you can't do this. I mean that's ridiculous. You simply can't do that, it's impossible'. And I think there's something truly to be admired about a person who says, 'Actually, I know the odds are stacked against us, but why not?' I think so much of his approach has that phrase at its core: 'Why not?' And I really think that's a very special thing to have in the theatre, somebody who has a 'why not' attitude, a 'Yes We Can' attitude, which is so invigorating and such a special thing to be part of.
And as for the fifteen other dysfunctional lunatics that have been travelling around with me, we've become a weird sort of dysfunctional family. But again, I mean some of the most talented and mercurial people you're likely to meet. I did remember thinking at the start of this tour, 'Well, if I've said yes to going on a tour to every country in the world, I wonder what the other people are like who have said yes to going'. Leaving home for two years and travelling to every country in the world requires a certain amount of blase attitude!
RK: I was going to say 'bravery'!
NH: 'Bravery', yes, 'bravery', sure!
RK: That's totally what you were going for!
NH: A 'can do' attitude. And it's such a wonderful thing to be part of and I think honestly it'll be very, very, very strange Sunday night. But I think Monday's going to be a very odd day. I think it'll be incredibly emotional for all of us, because we're so intrinsically connected to each other and to Hamlet as a play and to this building and to Dominic Dromgoole and Tom Bird and Tamsin Mehta, Malú Ansaldo, Helena Miscioscia, all of the wonderful producers. Dominic calls them 'mission control'! Again, just the bravado and sheer chutzpah that they've had is something to be really admired. In my opinion there is nothing the team behind Hamlet now can't do, because whenever they're faced with anything, they can always respond with, 'Well, did you take a play to every country in the world? No'. So I mean it's just such an incredible thing to have been part of. To say we'll miss it is probably [the] understatement of eternity.
RK: That's absolutely amazing. Thank you so much for joining us.
NH: Thank you, thank you for having me.
RK: And I hope that your final performance goes well.
NH: Thank you.
RK: Thank you.