Bori Bernát reviews the Almeida Theatre’s star-studded new production of Hamlet.
Have you read, seen or heard of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Yes? Great! No? Well you might have been living under a rock, as it may be the most often adapted play on the stage. This is the tragic story of a Danish prince, his downfall from glory to insanity and imminent death. After the death of the King, Hamlet’s father, Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle, takes over. The queen widow quickly remarries the new king, adding additional frustration to the royal family. However, things really turn sour for Hamlet when he finds out that his uncle murdered his brother for the throne. Sworn to take revenge, Hamlet fakes insanity, to the point where the audience is not sure whether it’s an act or not. Hubris takes effect, and there goes the kingdom of Denmark. This 400 year old play is a true classic, a must read, and a must see.
The Almeida put on a very modern version of the play- set in today’s world with today’s technology, but told with the words of Shakespeare. Old language meets TV screens. Instead of guards with swords, guards with guns. News reports, Chinese plastic balloons, fairy lights. It is an interesting concept, combining the old with the new, and seems to have taken a newfound popularity within the entertainment industry.
The acting is hands down brilliant. Andrew Scott, whom you might know as Moriarty from the BBC Sherlock, delivers an amazing performance. He takes the role of Hamlet and turns it into a personal and intimate representation of the story while keeping the classic archetypical aspect of the character. The show also features famous actors, such as Angus Wright as Claudius, known for Rogue One, and Jessica Brown Findlay from Black Mirror and Downton Abbey playing Ophelia. The dynamic between the actors is spot-on, skilful, an example of perfect theatre.
I have to applaud the director, Robert Icke. The timings and rhythm of the entire show was phenomenal. Never a boring, overdone moment. Good changes between scenes. Insane ideas done perfectly. Minor details that make or destroy a performance in their exact place.
The set and background are amazing as well. Logical, changeable, modern. It is easy to use for the actors and easy to understand for the audience, yet offers the appropriate mood for the show. The stage is divided into three main parts in depth with glass walls and curtains. It is minimalistic, just enough to serve the purpose but not too much to take away from what is truly important: the script and the performance.
If there is one scene I have to point out is the iconic swordfight between Hamlet and Laertes. This exciting battle stands out between the modern and the old aspects of the show. Instead of a gunfight or combat with real swords, the duel is decided with professional fencing. Yes, scoreboard counting hits, protective clothing, foil swords.
An additional interesting feature of the play, one that I’ve never seen before is having two intervals relatively close to each other. The performance itself is just over 3 hours long. It is a great show, a memorable night out, and a true classic with an artistic twist. I recommend it for everybody to see. Don’t miss out, it’s on show until the 15th of April.