Yes that’s right, 215 whole minutes of Shakespeare. That’d be 3 hours and 45 minutes – aka a blooming long time! TBH I think the cast of this latest production of Hamlet must have spoken every single word that Shakespeare wrote, and paused every single pause, and then some! It was however brilliant, and at no point did it get dull…But when I came blinking out of the theatre (why is it I’m always exhausted when I leave the Harold Pinter Theatre?!) at almost 11pm I knew I was gonna more than a little bit late home.
This was a modern take on Hamlet (and I do love a modern version of Shakespeare). It’s a play I had studied for my English A Level, a play that I love and have seen many times performed by a variety of brilliant leading men including Daniel Day Lewis and Kenneth Branagh. This time the lead role was being taken on by Andrew Scott of Sherlock fame, and he was amazing. I think I’ve read reviews where it’s been described as his career-defining role – and that’s not far off. He plays the part brilliantly. He’s frantic, disheveled, paranoid, with a believable madness that is almost shrouded with a belligerent drunkenness. His mother Gertrude was being by Juliet Stevenson who I’m not generally a fan of, however I must admit she also played her role very well.
I was happy from the off, as soon as I realised it was a modern take on Shakespeare, which is definitely my preferred way to view the work of the Bard. The wardrobe was done by an old friend of mine (the same old friend who did the brilliant costumes for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and both the sets and vibe was sleek Scandinavian styling. Some innovative modern narrative devices were employed throughout the course of the production – CCTV (a la 1984), video and news footage, the ‘incestuous’ wedding taking place behind the glass whilst other action was taking place in the foreground, and the music throughout was great.
I’m not going to go into the storyline of Hamlet, if you don’t know how it plays out by now shame on you! Suffice to say that the ending is rather sad but that this is definitely a production worth seeing, just as long as you warn your babysitter that you’re going to be rather late home!