Hamlet (Donmar at the Wyndhams, 27th June 2009)

The reason, I wanted to blog was because I wanted to respond in writing to things I’d seen or read or experienced. The intention was never to write reviews like those found in newspapers, but to comment on what I had thought about while watching, reading or viewing. When I walked out of the Jude Law Hamlet, I thought the only way I can respond in Miching Malicho is to compare to David Tennant’s portrayal of Hamlet, because all I kept thinking was that’s the way the RSC did it and they made more out of that line etc. Then I thought that I needed to consider this production on its own merits, because it wasn’t Greg Doran’s production, and it was trying to do something different. I had to remember I’d seen the Doran production five times, so was familiar with much of the blocking etc. Indeed, I enjoy seeing several versions of the same play in a short period of time, and I find this very rewarding, but at times, watching this Hamlet, it felt like the creative team had seen other versions and thought we can’t do that, we’ll have to stay safe.

Most of the characters wore black, so if felt that they were still in mourning, it didn’t make Hamlet’s dress and behaviours seem odd. Indeed, it felt like many of the characters wanted to be Hamlet. For example, when Laertes (Alex Waldmann) returns from France he isn’t full of anger, but rather shocked at the death of his father. It, therefore, doesn’t take much for Claudius to disarm him. Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tended to be static in her mad scenes. There might have been a reason for this, but it wasn’t that obvious to me. There was a lot of just passing by and noticing someone on stage. For example, this happens when Gertrude enters to convey the news that Ophelia has drowned. Instead of having motivated himself to kill Claudio in his ‘witching time of night’ speech, it felt like Hamlet was just about to get himself a cup of cocoa and stumbles on Claudius praying rather than seeking him out.

I felt that some of the other aspects of the production could have been thought through more. Gertrude (Penelope Wilton) drinks the poison as if she just thinks it is a drink. The players dress in white, but why are they still hanging round court when Claudius (Kevin R McNally) has shouted for lights with such force. I’m not sure they would still be hanging round Hamlet when things have gone so wrong for them. The King’s wassails are a little simper, and I didn’t get a sense of the ‘bloated king’ having a good time. Another interesting aspect, but rather curious was the staging of the bedchamber scene. The audience’s viewpoint was from Polinius’s (Ron Hill) point of view and we are not clear what is going on as our view is blurred. We see Polonius killed from our side of a white sheet which ends up shrouding Polonius. It was a nice idea, but I couldn’t really work out why do this. There was no sense that as an audience we were watching the rest of the events through Polonius’ eyes or meant to feel sympathy for Polonius.

There’s so nice touches such as ‘To be or not to be’ in the snow. Generally, Jude Law spoke his soliloquies to the audience with such force and anger. He is sensitive to Ophelia cupping her face in his hands in the nunnery scene, and there is one humorous moment when he moves Claudius and Gertrude’s thrones apart before ‘The Mousetrap’. I felt this was Law’s production. He was a very good Hamlet, and rather dominated with his angry young man. Though lacking in the humour of Tennant’s performance, it was a good performance overall.

Reviews and Previews

Guardian Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
Ind o S- review of Jude Law Hamlet
Independent article on Hamlet
BBC NEWS Programmes Newsnight Newsnight R…
Observer Hamlet review
Spectator Review of Hamlet
Independent Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
FT Jude Law Hamlet
The Stage / News / Wilton and Eyre to join Gran…
Candian review of Hamlet
Talking to Penelope Wilton (Gertrude) – Times O…
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
London Theatre’s Review of the Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law on Hamlet Evening Standard
Playbill News: Jude Law Is Hamlet, Beginning Ma…
Times Review of Jude Law Hamlet
Evening Standard review of Hamlet
Photos of Jude Law Hamlet
The Guardian review of the reviews of Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law and Michael Grandage discuss Hamlet at…
Sunday Time review of Jude Law Hamlet
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
Hamlet, at Wyndham’s Theatre – review
Hamlet Donamar – Interview with Ophelia
Official London, Jude Law Hamlet
What’s On Stage – Review of Hamlet
The Mail compares critics
Hamlet – Law/Tennant (Times)
Kevin Mcnally as Claudius
Stage Review of Hamlet

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