WANTING TO PLAY ALL THE PARTS—NICOL WILLIAMSON. Kids, in reading stories about Nicol Williamson, you should know that Nicol Williamson was thought of as one of the great stage actors of my youth. I got to see him in Uncl Vanya in 1973, and it was a big deal.
Paul Rudnick, the author of I Hate Hamlet, told more about Nicol Williamson’s approach to the play in “Personal History: I Hit Hamlet—Behind the Scenes at a Broadway Fiasco,” in The New Yorker (Dec. 24, 2007). This post on the A Boat Against the Current blog (March 17, 2010) retells some of the stories.
To understand my favorite story, you should know that Nicol Williamson played the ghost of John Barrymore, who haunts the apartment and the life of a young actor (played by Williamson’s costar) who has been offered the part of Hamlet in Central Park. Williamson and the costar are on stage together for much of the play.
Williamson called Rudnick at two a.m. one morning and proposed that the costar be removed and that Williamson would play both parts.
“Oh, I know just what you’re thinking,” [Williamson said.] “Of course I could play both parts easily, but [the costar’s character] is intended to be what, twenty-six years old? And you’re wondering, Will the audience accept me as twenty-six?”