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Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

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I'm on a train from London to York, sunburnt and exhausted.

I say bizarre because I've never seen Hamlet grab Polonius and hump him on the fishmonger line before. This was sort of the first clue to what an intensely physical aspect Jude was going to bring to the role. He was also a lot more spiteful than the other two Hamlets I've seen on stage (Ed Stoppard and Jeffrey Donovan) - and that's saying a lot, given that the Prince has plenty of spiteful moments to begin with. Overall, though, his intensity and carefully controlled manic energy were, I felt, appropriate. He looked the part a treat, I'll tell you that much; those wild eyes and wavy dark hair sold me as far as visuals are concerned.

I've never seen Horatio in blue jeans, black leather biker boots, a black leather jacket, and carrying a dagger before. This wasn't the most varied performance of the role I've ever seen, but it was incredibly honest and heartfelt all the same. I've never seen Horatio hold Hamlet during the spying-on-Ophelia's-burial scene, either, and I've never seen Hamlet accept the embrace and lean into it completely. Of all the physical dimensions to this dynamic, I think that scene is what I'll carry away as my treasured moment from this particular production.

Ophelia was good. This is not something I've seen very often, either; the insanity was a quiet, self-contained, hearing-songs-in-her-head kind of neurotic grieving that only rarely included outbursts at others. Her eyes were bright and alive the whole time, almost...sane, in the same way that Hamlet is insane-yet-not. The melodies for her snippets of song were fantastic; I'd never heard many of them before, and the St. Valentine's Day tirade was also rendered as a song with eerie, music-box-like accompaniment in the background. The effect was that, for a moment, we were all hearing exactly what Ophelia must have been hearing. Hauntingly effective! This is probably the youngest I've ever seen Ophelia portrayed, too; by the way the actress was costumed and played the role, she couldn't have been any older than an incredibly self-aware 17 or 18. For once, she didn't annoy me.

Most of the other roles sort of fade into the background, especially Laertes - I wasn't terribly taken with him, and his grief at Ophelia's passing was utterly unconvincing. To the same token, though, so was Hamlet's - it's the clearest example of the director (or actor, I'm not sure which) choosing to play Hamlet in that scene as completely showing up Laertes, rather than actually displaying genuine care for Ophelia. That, too, was kind of startling.

Overall, the costuming was modern dress in muted tones: blacks, dull blues, dark reds, gray. The staging was, I think, more innovative than the acting. The arras scene put the audience on the same side of the curtain as Polonius, and when he falls, he brings the whole white gossamer curtain down with him, abruptly yanking the barrier out from between Gertrude/Hamlet and the audience. Also commendable was Ophelia's burial; the entire stage-floor was covered in one-foot-by-one-foot black basalt flagstones, and about ten of them were actually pried up by the gravediggers before they started the actual business of digging. The implication was that she'd earned the right to be interred in Elsinore's main hall, rather than beneath the stones of the chapel. At the very back of the stage, there was a wide open area with a skylight that became visible whenever the huge doors were maneuvered open for entrances and exits. The to-be-or-not-to-be monologue was delivered by Hamlet, barefoot in the snow (which looked real, holy hell), in this space. The ghost was also barefoot, white-lit and haggard. Probably the best handling of the ghost I've ever seen; he really did seem to be everywhere at once, in spite of how slowly and calmly he moved!

I have a pretty bad sunburn after running around Covent Garden and St. James's Park today.

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Aww--I'm sory you got sunburned! I hope it's not to painful and you recover pretty quickly!

Ooh--thanks SO much for reviewing Hamlet!!

-Hamlet and Polonius does sound bizarre. Very.
-Branagh tends to induce spite in Hamlet. I don't know that I've ever seen a more intense--quietly fuming--Hamlet than in his film. And the "to be or not to be" scene in Hamlet that Branagh was in and Jacboi directed is amazing.
-Horatio's costuming sounds different. I love Shakespeare in simple dinner dress. I've seen Richard II and Much Ado done in it beautifully.
-Ophelia. She sounds amazing--a lot like the one I saw. (Except we had no music. She mimed some sort of instrument in the air, but we never heard it.)
-For some reason, teachers I've had have always read the Laertes/Hamelt grave scene as a contest between the two. (And the one I saw did that really well. It seemed like Hamlet challenged Laertes right there.)
-Barefoot Hamlet is evidently a new trend. :) It seems really cool that the Ghost was, though. (Was he, by any chance, the same actor who played Claudius?)
-And omg the Hamlet/Horatio moment! There should be pictures of that!

How was Jude Law? He still seems...odd to me. And was Ophelia onstage for the whole "to be or not to be" speech? That issue always intrigues me!

And I've majorly hogged your comments. I'm glad you had such a great time and enjoyd the perfomance!

No, Ophelia was not on stage for the speech. She trailed in at the very end of it. I'd say he was very good; he certainly didn't feel too old to be playing it, or anything like that. He did a better job than I might have been originally expecting, actually :)

Technically, she's supposed to be there, but she rarely is in performances. I guess it depends on the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia in the production.
It does sound like he did well! It's amazing how actors can surprise you like that!

Again, thanks for the review and I'm glad you got the chance to go and enjoyed it! :D

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Wow, though, it's impressive. It's the most burned I've been in a long time :)

That sounds fascinating. Especially Ophelia -- it is so difficult to get her insanity right, and that was one of the few false notes in the RSC production last year (ironic since I really liked her when she was sane).

I am very curious about Hamlet's physicality, since David Tennant was also incredibly physical, but it seems like it was a different kind of physicality.

Jude Law carried himself with a perpetual wide-footed stance, as if he might have to bolt or leap at any moment. The grabbing-Polonius-and-humping-him moment was one of the few times, however, that he actually did grab somebody. The follow-up to the ghost encounter with Horatio and Marcellus was pretty active, though; he darted around so quickly, following the voice in the cellarage. He seemed to be in excellent shape, as no doubt the rehearsals process would've been quite a workout.

He seemed to be in excellent shape, as no doubt the rehearsals process would've been quite a workout.

Oh, I bet! Just so long as he also doesn't hurt his back!

DT's performance was really interesting in that he spent a lot of time sort of curling up into himself (which seems to be the opposite of what Jude Law was doing, and that in itself is noteworthy). And the spitefulness too -- I can totally see how that would work very well; Hamlet's anger directed outward instead of inward.

That production sounds so incredibly interesting. Although I somehow suspect there's no chance at all of getting tickets without queuing for them, and I just can't spare the time to do it right now. Unless maybe after I hit the proofreading stage and can queue with a hard copy of my dissertation and a red pen...

I've never seen Hamlet grab Polonius and hump him on the fishmonger line before

I call that "we're going to make *sure* you get the double meaning" acting. :)

It sounds like a good production--thanks for sharing the details! I wish I could have seen the bits between Hamlet and Horatio (I love Horatio), and Ophelia.

Horatio's my favorite, too - but, truth be told, I have a hard time saying that I can separate him from Hamlet. I tend to form attachments to pairs rather than to single characters.

It is a good production - it was a very strong opening night!

Oh, definitely--Horatio's especially difficult that way, because his role is almost entirely defined by his relationship with and reactions to Hamlet.

Thanks for reviewing this! I wish I could see the actual production, of course, but this is certainly the next-best thing :)

It runs through the summer, I believe, should you be in the UK for any reason in the coming months. There are always student last-minute rush tickets!

Eee! I just assumed it had a short run, for some reason. I'll be in the UK in August at least, so if it's still going I'll try to make it. Thanks!

Thank you for reviewing this! Ophelia sounds amazing, and I wish I could have seen the grave scene between Horatio and Hamlet. I love Laertes so much that the idea he was done with insincerity is very sad, but the Horatio/Hamlet embrace may have made up for it if I saw it.

I also wish I could hear the music :) Sounds awesome.

It might have been insincerity born of relative inexperience; the actor did strike me as still quite untested.

Interesting. The only Hamlet I have seen on stage (Toby Stephens) was spiteful, and unusually physical, so I gathered from reviews. (Including one memorably stupid article which spoke about how girls would fancy Stephens all the more because of how violent he was to Ophelia.) I kind of figure Jude will be somewhere in the same area of the interpretive spectrum, as it were, from what I know of his film acting.

The ghost in this aforementioned production was one of the best performances I have seen on stage, ever, so it's going to be hard to beat. Everything else was pretty much unmemorable so I'm hoping this production will bring me into the play more emotionally.

Not so violent that I disliked him in the role, though - just spiteful. He also had a surprising crackle of sincere warmth about him that I hadn't expected, almost as if some of that trademark film venom of his has mellowed out a bit.


What a great description of the performance! I was in London too this weekend looking for a flat, but I didn't see the adverts for the show. When I move back in July I'll try to give it a go.

Glad to hear that you had a great time! I was in Covent Gdn area last evening, as well. Wasn't the weather lovely?


Oh, wow, you're still over here? I swear we keep missing each other :)

News from today's Hamlet fming, in case you're not following it:

First thing, we filmed a close shot of Horatio cradling Hamlet in the closing moments.

Thought you might be interested! ;)

I can't wait to see that DVD.

Me too! Although, I'm still trying to figure out HOW I'll get it...

But there's apparently a Hamlet craze sweeping the world right now-David and Jude's productions, this DVD, and then some of the Twilighters are supposed to be doing one also. (I shudder at that thought.)

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