Tubby or Not Tubby?; Helen Cross Discovers Richard McCabe Preparing for a New-Look Hamlet at the Birmingham Rep

By Cross, Helen | The Birmingham Post (England), September 11, 2000 | Go to article overview

Tubby or Not Tubby?; Helen Cross Discovers Richard McCabe Preparing for a New-Look Hamlet at the Birmingham Rep


Cross, Helen, The Birmingham Post (England)


Don't even think of saying 'Tubby or not tubby', though, in truth, fat is, indeed, the question.

Richard McCabe's Hamlet may be a revival of 1998's much praised Rep production, but you'll find things much changed: Hamlet's been on a diet.

'I've lost more than two stone in weight this time,' McCabe says proudly. Reviews, while admitting McCabe was excellent in the role, did mention that there was a little more of Hamlet than usual.

'No one mentions there's a line in Act 5 which says he is 'fat and scant of breath',' McCabe laughs. 'But this time I'm giving them no excuse.'

The chance to develop the role is a prospect which delights McCabe, an actor who in person is as manically enthusiastic and energetic as the blazing characters he portrays. 'You rarely get the chance to revive roles. Unlike opera singers, in theatre once you've done it, that's it.'

But when the run of the play is finished the part still continues in the actor's subconscious. Lines that had been a problem are resolved and restructured.

'Generally when you finish a show you'll be sitting there in the bath, and think, 'Ah, that's how I should have done it!'' McCabe explains. 'Last time we were not entirely satisfied with the nunnery scene, which is a notoriously difficult scene to do. Now it's so much better. And I'm playing the whole 'To be or not to be' speech differently this time.'

For many critics and audience members his performance could not get much better: McCabe's Hamlet was roundly praised by both the national and local press.

'Hamlet plumbs the depths of your emotional life,' McCabe admits. 'Going into this place is not always very comfortable. I found that both I and Rakie Ayola, who plays Ophelia, would come off stage completely drained and just be left staring at one another with nothing to say. The play does leave a residue that you have to shake off.'

McCabe has mesmerised audiences all over the country on both stage and screen. His projects are diverse, ranging from blockbusting films, such as Hugh Grant's recent Notting Hill, to obscure RSC classics. His hallmark is an ability to bring the dark humour, caustic wit and flawed humanity of even the most damaged or destructive characters, to the fore.

You'd want McCabe's Hamlet to be one of your mates. In fact in last year's reviews McCabe was accused by some of being too humorous with the part. …

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