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Eddie Izzard: Marathons were good training for solo staging of 'Hamlet'

Eddie Izzard can be seen playing all the roles in a one-person production of "Hamlet" Off-Broadway. Photo by Amanda Searle
Eddie Izzard can be seen playing all the roles in a one-person production of "Hamlet" Off-Broadway. Photo by Amanda Searle

NEW YORK, Feb. 11 (UPI) -- Actor and stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard says the recent marathons she has run and documented on social media were good preparation for playing all of the roles in a one-woman, 15,000-word stage production of William Shakespeare's tragedy, Hamlet.

"When you do a lot of multiple marathons, a lot of mental energy is needed," Izzard, who uses she/her pronouns, told UPI in a recent phone interview.

"That is exactly what you need to go through Hamlet or Great Expectations or even my stand-up shows," she added. "It was good mental training."

Opening Sunday after 12 previews and playing through March 3 at the Greenwich House Theater in New York, the show was adapted by Izzard's older brother, Mark, and directed by Selina Cadell.

Eddie Izzard said she feels excited and confident, but also keenly aware that the show's success rests on her shoulders.

Comedian Eddie Izzard participates in "A Conversation Withe Eddie Izzard" Q&ampA during Politicon at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles in October 2017. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Comedian Eddie Izzard participates in "A Conversation Withe Eddie Izzard" Q&A during Politicon at the Los Angeles Convention Center in Los Angeles in October 2017. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"If there were a cast of 23, then someone else would come on the stage and I'd be like, 'Oh, I'm not in this scene,'" she said.

Eddie Izzard arrives for the MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute to Paul McCartney held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2012. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI
Eddie Izzard arrives for the MusiCares Person of the Year Tribute to Paul McCartney held at the Los Angeles Convention Center in 2012. File Photo by Jim Ruymen/UPI

"But I'm in every scene, so I just need to know what the next scene is. If I ever lose the thread on my journey, then it can get me into problems because I can back up, but to reset my mind is a little tricky."

The Izzards and Cadell previously collaborated on a one-woman presentation of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations in the same Manhattan venue last year.

Her collaboration with her brother started when they were children and she sold tickets for Mark Izzard's first show in a dormitory at their boarding school after their mother died.

Later, Mark Izzard translated her stand-up shows into French, German and Spanish when she toured.

"It's great working with him and, on Great Expectations, I said, 'Should we do this together?' And he'd just gone ahead and [adapted] that," Eddie Izzard recalled.

"And then I said, 'Do you want to do Hamlet because we're going to do Hamlet?' Which he was reluctant to do initially, reluctant to start, I think, and then I said: 'We're going to do rehearsals. It's going to happen and we need it by ....' Deadlines are good."

Eddie Izzard performs the 2-hour-plus show dynamically and courageously using only her imagination, talent, moody music and effective lighting to tell the centuries-old story about royal family discord in Denmark.

She has no props or scenery to guide her or hide behind.

The artist said she, her brother and Cadell worked hard to make sure the adaptation was fast-paced and cohesive, while breathing new life into the story's most important scenes.

Although Eddie Izzard describes their relationships as "open, fluid and trusting," she said the trio didn't always agree on which bits to leave in the play and which to take out.

"Sometimes we had a three-way argument," she said.

"It's good. It even got heated. We're arguing over whether the emphasis on 'not' should be there .... Or, 'Is that a question mark?' 'No, I don't think that's a question mark!' That turned into quite an argument," Eddie Izzard added.

"But that's good. If you are having heated artistic arguments, then you can continue working together. That's a positive thing. There was a lot of energy being put into it."

The former street performer, whose passions for literature and history are well-known, said she thinks it is important to keep introducing the stories of Shakespeare and Dickens to new audiences.

"The thing about the classics is there are some elemental human truths," she said, circling back to Hamlet, which addresses emotions such as grief, greed, mental illness, betrayal and corruption.

Eddie Izzard also has appeared in the TV shows The Riches, United States of Tara, Hannibal and The Lost Symbol, as well as the films Valkyrie, The Cat's Meow and the Ocean's 11 franchise.

The entertainer's colorful and impressive resume suggests she is always looking for new adventures and ways to broaden her horizons.

"If you succeed in a challenge, you do feel good about yourself," she said, noting some fields such as the arts, business and politics are just inherently competitive," she said..

"To get through it is really hard and, if you have a certain look, if you are a hyper-attractive person, classically, this is a good-looking man, this is a good-looking woman, then 'money' will come to you and say, 'This is your time. We're going to put a lot of money into what film you want to do because people want to be you or want to sleep with you.'"

"If you're not in that group, which is a rarefied group, then you have got to do something challenging, different, unusual, pushing the boundaries, pushing the envelope."