Dreaming the Dream
Other people’s dreams are probably the most boring fiction extant. I would ask you, however, to follow this rendition through because there is a point, albeit a small one.
I can’t recall the last time I could remember a dream but this morning I woke with full recollection of a very vivid one.
My wife and I were at a performance of Hamlet in a country house, a sort of Glyndebourne. We were just two in a crowd of spectators and were surprised to find no stage. I was also surprised to hear two of the crowd around me speaking Shakespeare’s text and finally realised they were part of the play and it was to take place amongst the audience. I was disappointed that I had missed the opening ghost scene.
As the play progressed, it became clear that various parts of the play were taking place in parallel in different parts of the house, out-buildings and grounds. This meant that it was impossible to hear the whole play and the bits one heard, one heard accidently—by being in a particular place. I was particularly pleased to be present when Hamlet arrived back from his abortive trip to England. He arrived in a fleet of large pantechnicons, the leading one being driven, incongruously enough, by Joe Scoles, a well-known Canadian pilot.
When the play finished I was lucky enough to be able to interview the director and find out what he had intended. He made the point that everyone likely to come to a performance of Hamlet would not only know the story but would also know most of the text. It was pointless, therefore, to present the play in a serial manner to them. It would be as ridiculous as making a film of the Titanic—no one would come to watch because everyone would know from the beginning what the ending was going to be. The director’s idea, therefore, was to play in parallel those scenes which happened in parallel in the story. This treatment also had the advantage of making the whole thing shorter.
I lay in bed wondering about this dream. I have no real interest in the theatre and the last time I directed a stage performance was 34 years ago in Bo, Sierra Leone. I imagine that my production of Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion is still discussed in that uphappy country but this was obviously not a brain-wave for my next West End production.
I then realised that, just before I fell asleep, I had been reading a comparison of Newton’s, Liebnitz’s and Kant’s views of space and time: whether they are a priori or not. Dreams and stage plays are intrinsically able to manipulate temporal and spacial concepts in a way that the rational mind disallows and here we have Hamlet’s play inside the play of Hamlet inside the dream. And a director able to manipulate the space and time concepts further.