The University of Adelaide and Silents Now are having a special screening of the Asta Neilsen Hamlet, accompanied by live, improvised music.
The first Hamlet ever to appear on film was Sarah Bernhardt, in a roughly ten minute piece designed to demonstrate the possibilities of film. The first full length feature film version of Hamlet also starred a woman as the Prince, Danish actress Asta Neilsen.
“To my mind there were just two geniuses of the silent film era: Asta and Chaplin. It is very hard for anyone now to conceive the huge scale of Asta’s personality in Germany. Wherever we went, even in the smallest towns, crowds immediately gathered round her.” – Sven Gade, Director of Hamlet, in The Screenplay of My Life (1941).
For those interested in the extensive, expansive history of actresses playing Hamlet, Women As Hamlet: Performance and Interpretation by Tony Howard details the whole story.
One chance only to get the Asta Neilsen experience, and see the first Hamlet feature film on the big screen.
Directed by Michael Campbell, and performed outdoors in Rushcutters Bay, Coogee and Bondi.
For a handful of performances, the chance to see Twelfth Night performed al fresco on Sydney’s Eastern beaches.
Tickets $20 and $10
Sat 12th March 2016, Rushcutters Bay 5pm
Sun 13th March 2016, Coogee Bay Amphitheatre 6pm
Sunday 20th March 2016, Bondi Beach Amphitheatre 1pm and 6pm
Monday 21st March 2016, Bondi Beach Amphitheatre 1pm and 6pm
“When the Shakespeare Tercentenary Memorial Fund was established in Sydney in 1912 … the goal of the organisation was to raise enough money for a fitting memorial to Shakespeare to be created by the date of the three-hundredth anniversary of his death, in April 1916. Upon the announcement of the formation of the fund, an anonymous woman wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald to speak of the enthusiasm and support the organisation could expect from Australian women: ‘Whatever work there is to do by which we women may show our gratitude and love and devotion to our Shakespeare, we only ask, do not spare us, let us work side by side with men. Our power and ability to work for a fitting memorial of a beloved idol are as great, our devotion to the cause no less.'”
This is an extract from an article I wrote for the online journal Australian Studies.
The research for this article about the way Australians commemorated the 300th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death was only possible because of the remarkable capabilities of the Trove service, at the National Library of Australia. I was able to look up every column written about the Shakespeare Balls and other spectacular fundraising efforts, reported in minute detail in the Sydney newspapers from 1912 – 1916. I could do this at no charge, and without needing to travel to the Library in Canberra and ferret through their archives. This astonishing, useful, used resource is under threat from funding cuts, like so many other services supporting Australia’s intellectual and cultural life.
The idea of something that is already working so well, working for any Australian who cares to make use of it, and getting better all the time being curtailed is an unconscionable false economy.
The online journal for academics in a magazine-ish mood has a piece up from distinguished Shakespeare in Performance scholar Liz Schafer. It reflects on the work she has just been involved in in Perth, staging the Merry Wives of Windsor and Margaret of Anjou (noted previously on this site).