When they aren’t receiving incredibly pedantic stage directions from Hyde-White, the cast are commiserating together about what a terrible mistake this idea is.
Not since All That Jazz in 1979 has a film been as self-indulgent, self-aggrandizing, and solipsistic as director Alex Hyde-White’s embarrassingly naïve documentary Three Days of Hamlet. With Jazz, famed choreographer and megalomaniac Bob Fosse wrote, directed, and produced a film about himself, an act that should have had him committed for narcissistic personality disorder. Hyde-White has taken narcissism to a whole new level, though, with Hamlet, casting himself as director, star, producer, hero, villain, and a variety of other roles in order to gain as much screen time for himself as possible.
You most likely don’t know the name Alex Hyde-White, and for good reason. His most memorable performance was as David Morse, the sleazy businessman trying to woo Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. His father is Wilfred Hyde-White, a well-known British character actor who, before his death, was apparently a very cold and distant father, less than satisfied with his son’s career.
In Three Days of Hamlet, Hyde-White decides to produce a staged reading of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet in three days. Why? We are never told. No one has asked him to do it, and a rushed, underprepared production of one of Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies is hardly honoring the Bard’s memory. The only reason one can deduce that Hyde-White would want to undertake such a burden is to make himself look like a suffering, dedicated artist and to give himself material for a documentary. Ostensibly, Hyde-White never had the chance to play Hamlet when he was more age-appropriate (three minutes of his performance will show why), so he has decided to fund his own production where no one can point out that he grossly lacks the acting ability to play such an iconic and magnificent role.
As the actors assemble, it quickly becomes clear that they too are not entirely sure of Hyde-White’s reasons for staging Hamlet in only three days. They do their best to stay positive for as long as possible, but their confusion and frustration don’t stay hidden for long. The great actor Richard Chamberlain (The Thornbirds) is cast as Polonius. He at first seems tickled with Hyde-White’s idea and indulges him for as long as he can, but when he realizes that no one asked Hyde-White to do this and that he just decided to take it upon himself, Chamberlain begins to understand that he is dealing with a very delusional person.
The rest of the cast spends their time rushing around in what appears to be the most counterproductive rehearsal schedule of all time. When they aren’t receiving incredibly pedantic stage directions from Hyde-White, they are commiserating together about what a terrible mistake this idea is.
The most audaciously egotistical move Hyde-White makes is casting himself as both Hamlet and the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. To accomplish this, Hyde-White filmed himself performing as the Ghost and then projected the footage on stage for the actors to react to. It would be comical if it wasn’t so pathetically sad and desperate. Now playing the roles of father and son, Hyde-White forces his own relationship with his father to fit the narrative of Hamlet. He alleges that the similarities between Hamlet’s story and his own only occurred to him as the production was taking place, but due to his abysmal acting skills, it is obvious he has been manipulating every aspect of the documentary to make it appear as if art has imitated life. | Matthew Newlin