Mar. 19th, 2017

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As soon as I saw Andrew Scott was going to be playing Hamlet, I knew I'd be booking tickets.  And with Scott being one of SM's favourite actors booking to go for his birthday also solved the constant problem of what to buy him.

This review contains spoilers for the production (and for the play, but a lot of my flist will already know the plot).

I have quite a lot of conflicting thoughts about this production - yes, it landed on the plus side, but there were negatives.  SM really enjoyed it - his preferences are different from mine - he analyses a production as it is happening far more than I do - so from the point of view of his birthday present it was a great success.

Reading the reviews afterwards, a lot was made of the director Robert Icke and how he is new and innovative.  And there was a lot of what he did which worked - the use of the screen for example, both as security cameras (this is a modern day production) and to show the reactions of Claudius and Gertrude to The Mousetrap work really well.  I was less convinced with the newsreel style reporting in Danish - I don't speak Danish, the actors aren't speaking Danish so why not show the news with English titles?  And yes, I appreciate good direction, but for me I should be looking back on the play and thinking "that was good, why was it" and realising it was the direction, rather than having it dominating the play.

I did like Andrew Scott as Hamlet.  He had the ability to pull me in and be there with him, which is what I look for in the main actor.  In a play of this nature, I get to feel what he feels.

As for the supporting cast, no-one really grabbed me.  And I think partly that was directorial decision.  One of the problems of having seen a play a number of times is there are certain things I look for.  Here my question was, what did Claudius think to gain by killing Old Hamlet?  Apart from his wife - and the way they were behaving together I wouldn't have been surprised if they'd been having an affaire.  And Laertes, when he became angry, was very indistinct - which happens, but isn't very helpful in performance when it would help to know what he's saying.

The play is long.  Originally it was over four hours, on press night it was about four hours and now it is three and three-quarters.  This includes two quarter hour intervals.  Which is all very artistic, and allows for time to be taken, but to me some of the pauses could have been cut down.  Also, the last act felt as if all the action had to be jammed in, having spent much longer on thoughts, so somewhat unbalanced.  Robert Icke is keen to make Shakespeare accessible, yet in fact by very length of this production I think he's failed in his aim.

All of this comes over as a negative review, which isn't really fair.  I'm very pleased I saw it.  Andrew Scott is an excellent actor and I'm delighted to have seen him in Hamlet.  The production had some great ideas, but it didn't manage to be outstanding.

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