(Andrew Dickson’s article appeared in The New York Times, 4/18.)
It took a while to decide I wanted to do Hamlet. It wasn’t that I was daunted – I’d been acting professionally since my mid-20s and had some pretty big Shakespearean roles under my belt by that stage, at 32: Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew, Edgar in King Lear, Antony, Richard III. But when it came to Hamlet, I hesitated. I’m not even sure I’d seen the play in the theatre. I remember watching Laurence Olivier’s movie version and finding it a bit mannered – it just didn’t connect with me. I also watched the Russian film by Grigori Kozintsev, which I found much more powerful. But I wasn’t sure I had anything fresh to bring to Hamlet; I didn’t think I had anything to say.
Then my father died, and the reason seemed to be there. He’d been a coal-miner; he and my mother ran a grocer’s in north Wales, where I grew up. One day he was attacked, hit over the head with a hammer. Just awful. It incapacitated him. I was in New York when I got the telegram saying he’d died, about to open Trevor Griffiths’s The Comedians on Broadway, and I couldn’t come back for the funeral.