I must take issue with the ending of the article in Friday’s Independent Hollywood comes to Hackney on Ralph Fiennes forthcoming Hamlet. This refers to ‘a recent and ill-fated tradition of brainless Hollywood heart-throbs turned Hamlets’ and more seriously that ‘Keanu Reeves’ attempt in Canada was a flop’. On many levels this jibe is both unworthy and frankly wrong.
The critical reception to the Winnipeg Hamlet was indeed mixed, but some papers, especially from England, rated his performance very highly indeed. I saw the performance at the end of January and found it impressive especially for his physical energy and control, his clear sense of character, his ability to handle the humour in the part. If I felt less at ease with some of the vocal delivery this was also the case with the majority of the cast, and I tend to place responsibility for that with the director.
As with the Fiennes case, security was understandably tight. After all many in the audience were clearly Keanu Reeves fans and it cannot be easy to come out of the theatre every night to see the electronic sign on the wall of the sports shop opposite saying “Keanu, We’ve Got Your Size” but he took it all in good part.
However, it has to be pointed out that his presence alone led to an increase in subscriptions to the Manitoba Theatre Company’s season from around 11,000 to over 15,000, that he worked for union scale and that he looked for no special treatment, integrating himself fully into the company. Far from being a ‘brainless Hollywood heart-throb’ Keanu Reeves’ earliest work was in Shakespeare in Canada. Given the kind of hearsay perceptions that the article seeks to perpetrate, his return to the theatre can be seen to be an act of both courage and generosity.
Professor Gavin Bryars