“But one thing that struck me is humour – how universal humour is. No matter where we've gone, no matter all the regions we've travelled through, one thing that sticks is the wit and the humour in the play.”
Just before leaving for the third leg of the tour, Naeem talks about performing outside the oldest cathedral in the Americas, the humour that binds people together, and discovering new elements to the play.
Time: 11 minutes 27 seconds
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Transcript of Podcast
Phil Brooks: Welcome to the Adopt an Actor podcast series. This is the fourth interview with Naeem Hayat, who is one of the Hamlets in the Globe to Globe Hamlet world tour.
You're back from your second leg and you opened back in April at the Globe, how was the opening night at the Globe?
Naeem Hayat: Amazing, incredible sort of magical – it had long been a dream of mine to do a show at the Globe so it was quite magical to suddenly be there and with everybody in the theatre, and knowing that we as a company were about to embark on this mildly mental journey which none of us really knew what it might entail. It was really lovely to have a very warm start, yeah.
PB: How was that audience on the first night, it was the first time you’d performed in front of –
NH: Oh brilliant, I mean, raucous, but that’s what great about the Globe I think. It’s a very pure exchange between the audience and the actors, so it was really magical, really exciting. It was such a great energy and I think the audience knowing what the tour is about, what the show is about, I mean we couldn’t have been sent off with more spirit and energy than we did after those first few shows at the Globe.
PB: And since then you’ve performed all over the world already – darting around everywhere. How has it been going?
NH: Very well, very well. It’s sort of quite difficult to consolidate the experiences often into just normal conversation actually, because your experiences are so varied and odd sometimes, slightly surreal… So it’s quite difficult to often consolidate that. We’ve had the pleasure of playing in some incredible theatres, some historic venues, historic outdoor venues. And we’ve always, wherever we’ve gone, we’ve always been warmly welcomed by the people of the theatre, the people – audiences and that’s both very humbling and very reenergising. Because as you imagine, you know, we travel so much that often it can be quite tiring. You get to a place early in the morning and you may be very tired and you have a show the next evening and you wonder where you're going to get that energy from. And it always always strikes me how reenergising just a warm welcome is.
PB: And do any of those venues really stand out for you as particular…
NH: Ah so many. We played Mayakovsky theatre in Moscow, this incredible beautiful classical theatre. And to go from that, and then say to on the last leg, the Copán ruins in Honduras on the ground of these Mayan ruins. So it’s just so varied and so sort of mind boggling, it’s often – you often wonder how did I get from here to here or for example, one of my favourite most memorable moments of the tour so far is performing outside the Yucatán cathedral in Mérida, Mexico, the oldest cathedral in the Americas. We performed in this kind of town square just outside of the cathedral, and it was just such a magical moment – the square was absolutely packed with people who’d come out to see the show. We just didn’t expect, certainly I just didn’t expect that reception. And it was just amazing, there were people on balconies, people in trees watching the show. And it was just something that I’d never thought of, imagined or ever experienced in my life before then. So that’s definitely one that’s going to stick with me. It was a very very magical moment I think.
PB: Do you find, especially with audiences like that I guess, do you find they're reacting in the ways you expected or is it very different?
NH: It’s very different from place to place, it’s very different. So for example in the Carribean, we’ve had the most vocal audiences, actively vocal audiences throughout the show you know, they’ll talk to each other and they’ll shout things out during the show. So it’s very… sort of the first couple of times it happened I think we were all a bit taken aback by just shouting out during the shows. But it’s great because it makes you think if people are having such vocal reactions then hopefully maybe the show is working in a way, because they're paying attention and they're reacting to what they're seeing which is what you want really. But one thing that struck me is humour, how universal humour is. No matter where we’ve gone, no matter all the regions that we’ve travelled through, one thing that sticks is the wit and the humour in the play, and that people will find different things funny and different points in the play to different extents. But humour I think is one thing that we’ve found that sort of binds people. When they find something funny, it’s a collective thing. And that’s something that’s stuck me as we’ve gone on, how universal humour is.
PB: Do you find a lot of the audiences are almost surprised by the amount of humour in the play – they're expecting this dark tragedy and yet…
NH: Yeah absolutely, we’ve had quite a few people come up to us after the show or mention that they don’t remember Hamlet being such a funny play. And I think that’s a testament to both Dominic [Dromgoole, Artistic Director & Director] and Bill [Buckhurst, Director] and Shakespeare who wrote such a witty… such a sort of in depth look at people really. So yeah we’ve definitely, we’ve definitely had people be surprised by how funny it is and how witty it is. And that’s always really, really lovely conversation to have really, because you – because it makes you feel like, you know, maybe there is something, there’s play there. Which is totally in the spirit of the whole tour and the whole production, you know. It’s about play and sharing and exchange between the audience and the actors. So it’s really lovely to have people say that because that was something we hoped for in the rehearsal, to bring some of that out. And it’s different for example in America we played the Folger in Washington and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre. And because of the language the audiences understood the quite intricate humour as well as the general funny things if you like. They understood the very intricate wit inherently in the play and that was interesting in itself because we’d been playing in many countries before that which were primarily non-English speaking and so then all of a sudden there was this whole, a whole other layer of sort of audience reaction which is because they got the very fine, very intricate stuff as well as the general. That was quite surprising because all of a sudden we were like ‘oh yes we’re in an English speaking country – that’s why [they're] getting the really subtle stuff.’ Not that other audiences haven’t, but we just suddenly were like ‘oh what’s going on, oh yea- oh’. And it’s something that we hadn’t thought about because it just hadn’t come into our thought up until then.
PB: Do you find that they play itself is sort of changing as you go to all these different venues? Adapting, getting longer, shorter…
NH: Yeah I think we always, we have the same system for everywhere we go in terms of the, the short pre-show rehearsal. A cue to cue, for the music cues and entrances and exits etc. But normally the kind of shaping of it is normally defined by audience, and the audience’s reaction. It does tweak based on you know different venues, the fact that entrances might have to be in different places. But the subtle shifts happen from both being in different countries, having to respond to different cultures, and they responding to the play, as well as sort of inbuilt – you know the cast rotating constantly which means that that – there’s always that freshness which is great and wonderful and always playful. I’ve seen the show quite a few times now and even being in it I’m always surprised – I know what’s going to happen because I've seen it many times and I'm in it. But it even surprises me how different shows can be depending on who’s playing who. It’s like watching a different play because different actors have different rhythm, different ways of playing things, different subtleties. And that’s quite special for us I think, to be able to offer a show which is unique in that way for the country that we’re in.
PB: And then your character as well, last time we spoke you were still in rehearsals. Are you still very much changing and developing your ideas about him?
NH: Well, it is constantly change – it’s constantly shifting and that’s the thing about the play, that its… I mean it’s always so surprising to me how much it is just constantly finding out new stuff. I feel like I am certainly more comfortable in it now than I was when we last spoke – I hope to be anyway! But it is always shifting and actually I say about watching the show, it’s funny because you hear so much, sort of learn so much from listening. I've often seen the show and watch Ladi [Emeruwa, Hamlet] and heard something new and totally thought ‘God yeah I never thought of that’. Or ‘of course’ or ‘isn’t that so interesting, that’s not what my thought was but of course’. Or you know you suddenly see things like the relationship Hamlet has with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Or I remember watching the show in Costa Rica and we’ve spoken about Hamlet’s relationship with Horatio during rehearsal but all of a sudden I just thought he’s such a lovely man Horatio, what a great friend to have. It suddenly made so much sense watching it, and you watch their journey together right up until he dies in Horatio’s arms in a way. And I was just suddenly a struck by ‘god there’s a really loyal, brilliant man. It never really, it didn’t really sit with me before that moment. and I only say that because I got to see it, which in itself is a rare thing for an actor to be able to say that they can see the show that they’re in and then get the chance to do it with that insight, is very very rare. And an incredibly insightful experience.
PB: And finally what is your favourite moment in the play?
NH: Um, oh god…
PB: Hardest question so far
NH: I know! Um, it shifts, it always shifts. From the last leg I think only because it’s in my mind now is the exchange between Hamlet and Horatio, when Hamlet says ‘thou art e'en as just a man
As e'er my conversation cop'd withal’. It’s a very honest, genuine, exchange about how great a friend Horatio is. It’s just before the dumbshow and it always strikes me, that moment, because it feels like a genuine moment of kinship and generosity between those two guys. So that I think… I mean if you speak to me in a week and a half it would be totally different, but at the moment – well just because I mentioned the relationship with Horatio think that’s the moment. But it will definitely change.
PB: Great thank you very much
NH: Thank you.