Hamlet, One Of The Best…

A recent visit to London gave our Education & Projects Director an excuse to go to the Theatre….

I recently visited my son in London. “Let’s go to the theatre,” he said.

“How antisocial; I’ve not seen you for weeks,” I said, “What is the play about?”

“Oh, you probably won’t like it….it’s about a man who murders his brother to sleep with his brother’s wife, the hero’s girlfriend goes mad and is found drowned, probably murdered – his two university friends are decapitated, he stabs to death his girlfriend’s father, his girlfriend’s brother is killed in a fight, his mother poisoned and her ‘new’ husband stabbed and poison rammed down his throat…..”

“Let’s go,“ I said. So off we went to see ‘Hamlet’ at the National Theatre.

Rory Kinnear is marvellous as Hamlet. He offers the right blend of manic depressive behaviour and intelligent scrutiny of others. It’s the first time I’ve seen an actor smoking on stage used as an anti-social gesture because no-one else does. His problem is not that he can’t act and take revenge; it’s he can’t find the right circumstances to justify his revenge to himself until the end of the play, of course!!! His grasp of Shakespeare’s language and stagecraft is superb.

When Claudius first appeared, I thought, “My God. It’s Berlusconi!” I found his portrayal disappointing and weaker than I would have expected. Certainly overshadowed by the Player King. I have never seen ‘the play within the play’ done better – a totally engaging piece of physical theatre. Great ghost, movingly in torment – how they made him appear and disappear I couldn’t work out.

Surveillance is everywhere; it’s modern dress in an autocratic state – ring any bells? No-one is ever alone; everyone, every room is bugged; cameras are everywhere – set speeches are made for a wider audience with characters – especially Claudius knowing they are being filmed. Even Ophelia’s bible is bugged.

It’s the fifth time I’ve seen ‘Hamlet’; not as good as David Warner’s at Stratford in 1965 – God am I really that old? But well worth seeing, one of the best; and after 4 hours – yes the text has been cut – my bum wasn’t numb…and it’s coming to the Lowry in Salford.

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