This morning, I dreamt about Hamlet. It was so vivid and odd I thought I’d share. I was involved in a production using a newly found version that began with a prologue. A maidservant from Elsinore entered a tavern in the town and began a monologue about the deaths that had just taken place at the castle; dialogue followed. The next scene jumped to the real opening of the play, all of which took place as a flashback from the maid’s story.
I was interested in playing as part of the theatre’s ensemble, so I went to see the instrument manager. She wore a white Renaissance dress and hat, and explained that while she was out of viols, I could play what she called “the Devil’s Cittern.” This was a wooden box about 2 feet by 2 feet. On the flat top were strings strung much like a lute’s but over a low bridge. You played these with a set of sticks that had hammers–like those for hammered dulcimer–at one end and were pointed at the other. You could thus hammer or pluck, using the sticks like chopsticks. Underneath this top platform about six inches down from the top was a keyboard, so the box was also a kind of portative organ. At the very bottom of the box was a tube that ran to the bottom of a dulcian–a kind of early bassoon (see photo on right). So you could also play the dulcian and provide air for the organ at the same time, sort of.
The production itself was being mounted on an outdoor stage , but in addition to the Hamlet going on, a stage in the back of this one was presenting R&G Are Dead in real time with the Hamlet and using the same actors. And all around the stages, you could crawl through a stucco tunnel lined with carvings depicting scenes from each play.
Now back to work.