by William Shakespeare.
Barbican Theatre Silk Street EC2Y 8DS To 31 October 2015.
Mon-Sat 7.15pm Mat Sat 1.30pm.
Runs: 3hr 5min One interval
TICKETS: 020 7638 8891.
(sold out but 30 £10 tickets available daily In person: Mon– Sat, 9.00am-8pm; Sun & Bank Hols 11.00am-8pm).
Review: by Carole Woddis 26 August.
Somewhat flaky Danish pastry.
Hamlet the Dane is Everyman and woman. Right now, it seems he’s the provenance of young women. Scores of them hung about the Barbican Stage Door, hoping for a glimpse of Sherlock himself, Benedict Cumberbatch – fan worship the like of which has not been seen for many a long year.
Yes, we are talking here about serious theatre, Hamlet, arguably the greatest play in western drama. But inevitably, one’s view of the Sky Arts/Sonia Friedman frenzy fest is skewed by all that has gone before, controversy over the resiting of its most famous speech, “To be or not to be”. Yet the production’s creative credentials are as impressive as any production and to be judged by those standards.
Lyndsey Turner’s production is handsomely staged, given a fascinating – if not ultimately successful – cinematic grandeur by Es Devlin, boasting a vast dining hall (imagine a Buck House interior) that metamorphoses into a wasteland of Beckettian earth, piled high – a prison and a mausoleum.
So far so intriguing. And with the likes of Ciarån Hinds, Anastasia Hille, Jim Norton and Karl Johnson alongside such up-and-coming bright young talent as Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Siân Brooke and Rudi Dharmalingam, sparks could fly.
Alas, as scholar Harold Bloom has written, Hamlet the character overwhelms the play. It stands and falls by the capacity of its central protagonist to convey a paralysing, agonising internal journey from inaction to murder.
Turner opens with a strikingly original, sad and reverberative moment – Hamlet leafing through a book, listening to Nat King Cole’s Nature Boy on an old gramophone – but the song’s sentiments (about a sad and lonely boy, loving and being loved) barely resounds in the production until Hamlet, plunging the sword into Laertes, recalling that lost dream, receives his own death warrant.
Ophelia’s, Gertrude’s and even Claudius’ relationship with Hamlet go for almost nothing. Cumberbatch is speedy, clever, adept, the words tripping off his tongue beguilingly but barely translating into emotional angst or doubt. I guess you get what you pay for and this Hamlet – stylish and cast to the nines – barely scrapes the surface of its potential.
Danish soldier/Norwegian soldier: Barry Aird.
Captain/Servant: Eddie Arnold.
Horatio: Leo Bill.
Ophelia: Siân Brooke.
Cornelius: Nigel Carrington.
Player King: Ruairi Conaghan.
Hamlet: Benedict Cumberbatch.
Guildenstern: Rudi Dharmalingam.
Priest/Messenger: Colin Haigh.
Fencing Official: Paul Ham.
Player Queen/Messenger: Diveen Henry.
Gertrude: Anastasia Hille.
Claudius: Ciarán Hinds.
Laertes: Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.
Ghost/Gravedigger: Karl Johnson.
Polonius: Jim Norton.
Stage Manager/Official: Amaka Okafor.
Barnardo: Dan Parr.
Courtier: Jan Shepherd.
Voltemand: Morag Siller.
Rosencrantz: Matthew Steer.
Fortinbras: Sergo Vares.
Marcellus: Dwane Walcott.
Director: Lyndsey Turner.
Designer: Es Devlin.
Lighting: Jane Cox.
Sound: Christopher Shutt.
Music: Jon Hopkins.
Movement: Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Costume: Katrina Lindsay.
Fights: Brett Yount.
Voice: Alison Bomber.
Dialect: Majella Hurley.
Assistant director: Sam Caird.
First performance of this production of Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre Wednesday 5 August 2015.