20 October 2015

Benedict's brand-new Hamlet

Last week, I saw The National Theatre's movie-theatre broadcast of the Barbican's production of Hamlet. It was masterful, powerful, terrifying, and unforgettable.

 I can't believe that this director and cast made me feel as if I had never seen Hamlet before (I must have seen it 30 times) - but they did. This dark, angsty, melodramatic, Gothic performance managed to make the play fresh & dynamic once more. This was partly due to the cut-and-paste job with the text, which made familiar soliloquies pop up in unexpected places. I loved that approach. I don't see any need to treat Shakespeare's text with any kind of silly reverence: he himself thought of texts as fluid things and made new versions week by week to fit the theatre's momentary needs. But the power of the play was mostly in the acting of Benedict Cumberbatch -- but not only him. Sian Brooke
made a whole new (traumatized, mentally unstable, OCD) Ophelia already on the verge of a breakdown before the play began. Anastasia Hille as Gertrude and Ciarán Hinds as Claudis gave the king and queen much more compelling narrative arcs than I've seen before. And Benedict. Benedict was unforgettable.