Sunday, 26 March 2017

Theatre 2017: Review Eleven - Hamlet

Hamlet, Almeida Theatre, London. March 2017.

Reading back through this blog it becomes obvious that while I love Shakespeare seeing the plays performed by anyone other than the Globe often leads to disappointment.  I also struggle hugely with Hamlet as a play - my confession is that I've never really understood what the fuss was about and why this is considered one of the masterpieces of theatre.

I didn't enjoy the Barbican's Hamlet a couple of years ago and I had reservations about the was Shakespeare is staged at the Almeida from when we saw Richard III last year so why on earth were we going to see a four hour version of Hamlet at the Almeida?!

As the play started my trepidation grew yet further as this was a Hamlet in the modern world, complete with big screens and breaking news on cable television. Old Hamlet's ghost is first noticed on the CCTV...

However this version worked absolutely and the time flew, in fact I was quite sad as I realised we were entering the final act.  The updating of the setting worked perfectly, all of the cast seemed real and alive - they all had an (unspoken) back story and the tragedy that unfolded seemed real.  Hamlet was a broken man after the death of his father and swift remarriage of his mother.

When he learns that his uncle/step father murdered his father he tips from grief into insanity and although he claims he is feigning the madness I utterly believed that he lost his grip on reality and became mad.
Equally I believed that Claudius and Gertrude did love each other, that it wasn't just regicide and a power grab. The play was just a series of tragic accidents. The only time I fell out of love with this play was late on when poor Orphelia has become unhinged due to grief too. She seemed sidelined and unbelievable and her death/suicide was almost glossed over, as was the later graveside scene.

This small point didn't detract from the play however and for me this was a fantastic afternoon of theatre and  I finally see why this play is one of Shakespeare's masterpieces.

We decided to see this play mainly because of the lead actor, Andrew Scott, and we've been caught out by this before but our gut instinct was right. His delivery of the lines was spot on and at no point did I think I was watching Andrew Scott play Hamlet - I was just watching the tragedy of a Danish family fall apart.

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