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Domino Theatre
Robertson Davies

Quote of the Month

"The printed text of a play is not the play itself, any more than a copy of the orchestral score is a symphony. The talent and charm of actors, the skill of the designer, the tactful, unifying work of the director, are all needed to bring it to life. And, even if all these are present, they are powerless without an audience."

- Robertson Davies


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Desperate Measures

William Hutt tells this story in Standing Naked in the Wings, a collection of Canadian theatre anecdotes compiled by Lynda Mason Green and Tedde Moore:

William Hutt

William Hutt

We opened the permanent theatre at Stratford in 1957 with a production of Hamlet starring Chris Plummer. I was playing Polonius. In the famous "closet scene" where Polonius is accidentally killed by Hamlet there was no arras to hide behind on the Stratford stage, so I was lurking in the shadows behind a pillar upstage, underneath the balcony. Instead of Hamlet running his sword through the curtain as it is usually played, we had worked out the business in this way: Hamlet heard a sound, and put his hand on his sword. As he kept speaking to Gertrude he pulled his sword and, without looking, held it up behind him. At this precise moment I would burst out from behind the pillar as if to intervene and, as these two things would happen simultaneously, I would run accidentally onto his sword and thus he would kill me. It was a very effective piece of business. I died under the balcony and my inert body was out of the way for the rest of the scene.

Christopher Plummer

Christopher Plummer

On this particular night the theatre was incredibly hot and for some reason Chris could not get his sword out of its scabbard. I watched with mounting horror as it became clear that he would be unable to get his sword out in time. Thoughts of all the logistical problems of my dying out on the stage raced through my head. Hamlet and Gertrude would have had to play the rest of the scene tramping back and forth over this dead body and, as the scene ends with Hamlet dragging the dead Polonius off the stage, he would have had to drag me over a step that would have certainly dislodged my wig. Chris was still struggling to remove his sword so I just decided to grab my heart and fall over in a dead faint, as if all the exertion had killed me. After Chris finally managed to extricate his sword he came over to look at the body and poked at me with it as if I were a dead chicken, saying, "Is it the king?"

Thank God I was in a voluminous costume because I was absolutely screaming with laughter.

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