The student who is playing this part in my current class is smaller than a lot of her classmates. She doesn’t stand out, really, not at first. But she knows these lines and says them loudly and clearly while the others are fucking around with curtains and their props, not knowing what they’re saying. I can’t tell whether she’s a remarkable student or just demonstrating the wisdom of giving kids smaller amounts of lines to learn. But no one would want to see a Hamlet with only Reynaldo, Osric, Francisco and the messenger. Or would they?
Reynaldo seems to be way ahead of Polonius on this. He’s already planned on asking around about Laertes, or at least that’s what he says. He either is anticipating Polonius’ needs/instructions or knows how to make it seem as though he anticipated this instruction.
Maybe he knows Polonius well and would do what he would ask before he asks or maybe he’s a professional spy and Polonius is asking him to do what is part of his job, part of his spying wheelhouse and Polonius is micromanaging Secret Agent Reynaldo here. Whichever it is, Polonius seems to be impressed with this response.
If I can’t play Hamlet, I think I’d like to be Reynaldo.
There’s something about these little roles that I love.
Of the seven roles I played in the three plays on the Sweet Smoke of Rhetoric Tour, my favorite was the messenger/servant. In Henry IV, my messenger appeared for a few moments, said almost nothing – a blank page of a character.
If memory serves, this is why we named our theatre Messenger Theatre Company.
What’s glorious about these little roles is that there must be a whole world behind them that we will never see.
Reynaldo speaks several very short lines and never turns up again, so there is a vast canvas on which to paint this messenger/servant. We know he cannot/does not reveal anything about himself in this exchange but have a self, he must.
And an actor can invent one with just this little bit of information. Reynaldo can be terse because he is a dark mysterious spy or because he’s stupid with a limited vocabulary. He can be young, old, a peer of Laertes or an employee of Polonius.
Playing Reynaldo is a playground of choices.