The funeral party enter,
walking slowly in a column.
Her brother gets a bit upset
- wants it to be more solemn.
The finishing-line is in sight. It’s a long play (over three hours) but the actors play the text with verve and urgency. In the preview, this scene used all four of the Switzers. Two are to enter from the back of the theatre escorting the funeral party along the Parados. The other two are placed at the back of stage. They are to appear on the parapet of the set. Two silent guards watching as the Royal party takes its places.
To reach up to this part of the scenery, we climb a narrow ladder and then balance precariously on a “telephone-directory” sized platform. Ten feet in the air, no visible means of support except a handle at groin level. We emerge from the backstage gloom, and face directly into the blinding stage lights.
The direction is simple: “slowly, casually remove the cross-bow from your right-shoulder when Hamlet reveals himself. No panic but a gentle ratchet of the tension”. The action is impossible: I’m sorry Mr Boyd but no-way am I letting go of this handle and groping around for my cross-bow. There is the distinct probability of me unbalancing and then plunging to the ground.
Not only would that involve me breaking a leg (at best!) but it would also look pretty lousy from out front. The audience would be treated to the view of one Switzer disappearing like a coconut knocked from a fairground shy. Half of them would then spend the rest of the scene wondering whether they win a teddy-bear if the second Switzer falls away!