It happened in Denmark…

Benedict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Let’s get some things out of the way first. I am not sure the Barbican has handled this whole customer relationships thing well. In fact, as far as i am concerned they couldn’t have alienated and annoyed me more. And i’ve been visiting it for a good few years. But they have never before treated me like a 3 year old! Ever since i purchased Hamlet tickets they have been bombarding me with emails about how to behave, what to do and not to do, what would happen and what wouldn’t. And as the day came it only got worse. In total i got 5! warnings yesterday about turning all my equipment off: one via email, three via building communications and 1 from an usher face to face. (I never think such insistent warnings are of any use, a reminder before the start is good and people who pay attention will then turn phones off and that is that. The ones who don’t care or set out to capture images/sounds will not be deterred, no matter how many warnings are issued. My point was only proven by what my friend told me she observed, ie someone recording one of the soliloquies on her mobile phone with the closest usher not noticing/not doing anything about it). The another usher  sat less than 2 meters away, facing me and the people around me and stared at us during the entire show. That is when she didn’t go in and out(several times) or maneuvered her water bottle, in fact disturbing much more than anyone of the audience. Announcements were repeated, several times after the interval. And to top it all off this morning i got another email, this time to shift product on me, with the promise they could send it anywhere in the world. This in addition to the program i bought by mistake last night, thinking it was the usual £4, when in fact it turned out it was £8.50! By the time they told me i had already handed my card over and didn’t have the chutzpah to demand it back.

So i saw the play and managed to enjoy the evening in spite of all this harassment and the general circus going on around it. It is a real pity both venue and press are creating such an unpleasant atmosphere around the play. It’s contrary to a relaxed, warm, welcoming and excited atmosphere which would ‘prime’ the audience to be receptive to the play. You have to work away the annoyance and force yourself to relax and be positive. Thankfully for once i arrived with plenty of time to spare and had managed to bag a cheap but decent seat on a side of the upper circle and was hovering above the audience with almost only the stage in front of me. Just the way i like it 🙂

And enjoy it i did. It was a bit similar to watching a decent movie at the cinema, a good couple of hours capturing your full attention and telling you an interesting story. After all this is one of the best story tellers in history 😉 I can’t imagine a scenario where Hamlet could ever be really boring. And this was also pleasant to look at.

The staging seems to have been the subject of much debate and some controversy. I can’t quite follow why. Nothing i saw was in any way controversial, totally out of place or offensive to the eye. Es Devlin is known for the big sets and this was a very realistic interpretation of a stately mansion or palace. It was pretty lavish, with walls in tones of blue/green, decorated with armoury and big chandeliers and the dark wood stage boards worked well with it. It had big doors through which chairs or tables, pianos could be moved changing the scenes seamlessly and without need for pause. In the second part rubble invaded the place  in an effective and clear symbol for the crumbling rein in Denmark. It is a world headed to its demise.

Nothing unique, nothing particularly original, but functional. Time and place where somewhat indeterminate, which again wasn’t something that deterred for me from the story.

If this had been an opera production (and there certainly is an opera of Hamlet ;-)) i’d say this was pretty traditional, standard fare, made in good state and with pleasing and elegant aesthetics. It was very straight forward, totally uncontroversial for me. In fact this is probably of all Es Devlin’s sets i’ve seen the least complex, least imaginative. I’ve come to like her usual puzzle-piece, layered work and frankly i was surprised how simple this was. I guess the money went more towards fittings and decoration than structure. Personally, i would have preferred her to go for one of the peel-back ideas where the world literally falls apart in front of our eyes rather than just the mounds of rubble and debris.

I just missed some of her amazing ingenuity here.But what was on stage did its job and didn’t get in the way of the action. Nothing much wrong with that at the end of the day. Also, it was a good set acoustically. Again, if this had been an opera i would have applauded the build, with big strong walls creating hard resonance surfaces. As you can see below it effectively creates a corner and a box which is great for resonance and projection.

But, it turns out the voices were all amplified. I’m not a fan at all of amplification in theatre, but there are some mitigating factors here: the theatre is covered in velvet material, the floors too and it makes it absorb sound very badly, so in spite of the good set it may have created some problems with acoustics. But.. i have seen theatre in this place before, including Shakespeare and it was unamplified and there was no problem hearing the actors. The amplification was done very well i have to say, there was no disturbance to the sound at all and volume of individual actors remained consistent throughout which means they have a very good sound engineer. Well done. It is still not my preferred way of hearing theatre because it almost inevitably creates some unnatural effects: like people being equally as loud when their backs are turned, like loosing some of the impact of sound when people move through the set, again because the quality of sound remains consistent. Consistence is a positive but to me the voice moves within the space adds to the acting and the feel of things. I am not generalising and i do recognise i am talking from the pov of someone very sensitive to sound and very fond of all its details. Also, amplification invariably impacts volume, essentially you almost always loose the ability for those barely heard whispers. The ones where you have to literally strain to hear, the ones which draw you in, which make you mentally almost crawl on stage. Asides of characters also become more complicated when you hear everyone almost equally loud.  Also some characters will be more amplified than others and this is audible to me. I thought BC was done extremely well, i’m tempted to say there was probably very little of it, as there was no reverb to his voice at all and it didn’t loose its natural tone, he was never too loud which made it feel very natural. However others were clearly too loud for nature, like Ophelia, whose probably naturally soft voice was amplified beyond my liking. I thought it would have actually suited the character to be less loud than anyone else. Laertes who sounded like he naturally had quite a bit of projection sounded way too loud also.

Ciaran Hinds, Claudius – Photo Johan Persson

I remain unconvinced there was a good reason for the amplification other than it allowed the production to put through a lot of sounds of wind, rumbles, gusts and general noise. I also wasn’t convinced this extended soundtrack was necessary or added much. I thought Ophelia’s piano playing was a lovely addition and a beautiful way to point to her sensible soul, in addition to her photographic hobby. Here’s one character i never thought good Will has done justice to in the play. She doesn’t get many words so a lot has to be implied. I liked the fact that they showed us she has a gentle, introspective, somewhat observing soul. Not a go-getter 🙂 And therefore a match for Hamlet in life. So we got to see a bit more than the few words allowed her to tell us. Which was good, as i didn’t get much sense of Ophelia herself before her end in the 2nd part…

Sian Brooke, Ophelia, photos Johan Persson

Speaking of the 2 parts of the show, i thought it become a much more interesting play in the 2nd half. The first felt to me incredibly fast-paced, almost rushed. It’s a platitude, but silences are just as important as words in a play and this has many words. And they came as an unbroken, constant flow. All were very clear, well articulated, by everyone. There was no instance of garbled lines, no word which lost its meaning in the process. But gosh, we only ever got time to ingest, not digest. The set meant scene changes were seamless and the action just moved on but this left us with no breathing space at all, since even when there were props being moved about there was either some sound or music or the words continued. Hamlet is in many ways a thriller, but even suspense needs time to build! And stuff happened so fast no emotion really got a chance to develop, you didn’t have time as an audience to be shocked, to feel fear, to feel sad or appalled. You just watched the action.

And there was a lot of laughing and giggling. The text is often ironic and Hamlet’s double meaning words often trigger giggles as it is a spontaneous reaction that happens immediately, no need to think about it. But we, or at least i, never got to wonder or fear what would happen next as before i got a chance to consider it had already happened.

Thankfully things slowed down a bit in the second part, particularly in the graveyard scene, and an atmosphere finally built and we got a bit more feeling with a bit less action. But it was really too late to develop any rapport with some of the characters who we lost before we even really got to know them properly.

The whole thing felt very often like watching history unfold, fall towards a devastating end. Hamlet can certainly be seen that way, history happening and one bad decision bringing on another and another until the whole construction crumbles and nothing is left. History is full of the rapid demises of families and whole lines being wiped out in one go. Fortinbras and his ascent in his own house and country is a brief but stark contrast to what is happening in Denmark.

This is the story that i felt was effectively, speedily and clearly told. Nobody left the theatre not knowing what happened in Denmark. But the question for me is: did history just happen to people in Shakespeare’s Hamlet? They seem to be unable to stop it and it drags them to the grave and renders them all… just skulls. You could say this happens no matter who the people are, what they feel, what moves them and none of that matters once they are all dust.

Anastasia Hille, Gertrude,photo Johan Persson

Except, aren’t we there to get to know the people it happens to? What is the point of making these people speak to us and each other? We could read what happened to them in a history book (well, some of it ;-)), but i never felt with Shakespeare that things just happen. It is always people who make them happen, their flaws, their virtues, their emotions. There is always feeling behind the words or driving the words, it is not just action.

But i felt most of the time all i heard and saw was what was happening not what was being felt. There were a few moments of emotion, like Hamlet hesitating to stab Claudius while he is praying, there is a real moment of torment and doubt there and there is some emotion in his confrontation with his mother, where he breaks down for an instant and you think the shell finally cracked. But none of it really gets a chance to gain momentum.

Neither gestures nor words explain what connects Claudius to Gertrude. They feel more like a couple who has been together for years and years, there is a feeling of familiarity about them but no passion or connection other than the functionality of the royal house. It comes almost as a surprise when Claudius in a longer speech reveals the sun goes up and sets for him with Gertrude. And even then you wonder if it is just some sort of politics he is playing trying to be even more convincing.

You don’t get a sense if Ophelia was ever touched by Hamlet’s letters and if she feels any regret in returning them or if Hamlet has any hesitation in seeing them again before pushing her away. Hamlet seems driven by action in an almost relentless way, as if almost to stop himself from thinking. The madness is more rational irrationality but never infused with uncontrollable emotion. But it makes sense for him to not know what to do but try and do something so actions may seem erratic. But his mother does not seem overly distressed by either his actions or his demeanour, neither was i, to be honest.

It was as if Hamlet himself never got to take a breath and ponder what he was really feeling as he had to constantly deal with something, talk to somebody, do something, respond to something. So we don’t see or know: is he afraid, is he grieving, is he tormented? The words sometimes indicated it but neither we nor he gets a chance to explore and show any of it much. He certainly looks lonely, almost isolated, apart from it all and yet hooked by the throat and dragged along, like in an avalanche. Horatio running around, constantly wearing a backpack, doesn’t seem to be able to try and stop him or slow down the slide. He seems pretty frantic himself, rather than attempting to be a grounding influence on Hamlet.

Claudius is best described as regal, he certainly is in charge of it all, to the point where he never really seems to loose control. The big speech reveals his actions but we also feel he has accepted the consequences and is prepared to carry on to the end. There is no doubt or remorse or fear that i got at any point, the public face of the king had very much become also his private one. Matters were not helped by the theatre scene being played with the court audience  kept almost in the dark on the stage. We never got to see the character’s most hidden thoughts and feelings, we never saw them faltering, hesitating. He also recovers very quickly in the face of Laertes’ anger and public support and the political solution comes easy and convincing.You never feel that he would have really been in danger there. Laertes is never more than an impulsive, anger and grief filled youth, the only one who seems truly driven by uncontrollable emotions in the play.

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Laertes) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Hamlet) in Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

Then there was Karl Johnson playing both the ghost and the gravedigger. Strange as it may be, the most ‘normal’ character in the whole play 🙂 Shakespeare is great at giving us some moments of relief from the tension and the amazing thing was that, as both characters, in few words he managed to give us a sense of exactly who he is and what kind of person we are listening to. It also helped that his delivery was unrushed, natural but filled with emotion, even if just dark irony about human fate and death.

Karl Johnson, king’s ghost/gravedigger, photo Johan Persson

Some humanity came across also with Polonius. Here he never gets to be more than a fussy, almost pompous character and we only get a chance to understand his true connection to his children through their grief about his death, which is palpable. If you think about it though – there is no time to do so during the play – you realise what a contrast this is between the impersonal relationship Hamlet has with his family. Polonius fusses over and constantly throws advice at his two children. While Gertrude and Claudius get other people to ‘deal’ with Hamlet. This should be both irritating (which you get slight sense of) but also saddening, and it never quite reaches us all the way.

I am sure a lot of thought was given to the relationships and meanings and feelings. As was to the production. I think in their determination to not overcomplicate, over-emphasise the story they strove for clarity, in text delivery, in visuals, in all messages on stage. They tried to lift the dust and some weight of Shakespeare making it feel very natural and straight-forward, which i think they achieved. But i think in the process they forgot that some of the weight is emotional and we shouldn’t just get to know a story but be filled with sorrow for what happens to these people. It is the only way we will remember it, the only way it will be a truly meaningful experience. I think they told the story of Hamlet but never gave the audience a chance to feel for Hamlet, to be filled with his anger, to feel his doubt, to be touched by his loneliness and ultimately to cry for his untimely death and short, unfulfilled life.

I don’t fully understand why they made the choices they made, but i’m saddened by the emotional restraint they chose to impose on the actors and none more than Hamlet himself. In his many roles, both on stage and on screen he’s never failed to touch me and i was looking forward to tapping into that wealth of emotions he carries. And to the end it felt out of reach, Hamlet remained sadly guarded and introverted when all we want as an audience is to share in his loneliness, to be his sole confessor if you will.

I’ll return on the last day and who knows, maybe in the meantime something will unlock, the run is still in its early stage. One can but hope, because the potential i know is there and frankly i expect much more of an evening with Shakespeare than just action.


Soldier:Barry Aird
Danish Captain / Servant:Eddie Arnold
Horatio:Leo Bill
Ophelia:Sian Brooke
Servant / Cornelius:Nigel Carrington
Player King:Ruairi Conaghan
Hamlet:Benedict Cumberbatch
Guildenstern:Rudi Dharmalingam
Priest / Messenger:Colin Haigh
Official:Paul Ham
Player Queen / Messenger:Diveen Henry
Gertrude:Anastasia Hille
Claudius:Ciarán Hinds
Laertes:Kobna Holdbrook-Smith
Ghost of Hamlet’s Father:Karl Johnson
Polonius:Jim Norton
Official:Amaka Okafor
Barnardo:Dan Parr
Courtier:Jan Sheperd
Voltemand:Morag Siller
Rosencrantz:Matthew Steer
Fortinbras:Sergo Vares
Marcellus:Dwane Walcott


DirectorLyndsey Turner
Set DesignEs Devlin
Costume DesignKatrina Lindsay
Video DesignLuke Halls
Lighting DesignJane Cox
MusicJon Hopkins
Sound DesignChristopher Shutt
MovementSidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Bendict Cumberbatch, Hamlet, photo Johan Persson

PS One of the things we talked about with my friend was what a pity it is Benedict has gotten so big he probably can’t do things at the Globe just because of the sheer amount of people who want to see it, as he would probably be great at it and it can be a very rewarding experience to be able to see and feel the audience’s immediate reactions.

Speaking of the Globe and productions in London, there is actually 2! Oresteia going on, one in Trafalgar Studios, which transferred from the Almeida and the other at the Globe. And in case you thought London is the place for mostly traditional productions…


30 thoughts on “It happened in Denmark…

  1. Thank you for this really detailed review. I had been dying to hear something about the set design because it had been reviewed as mixed as the production itself. From how you describe it – and the picture in your post – it actually strikes me as fairly conventional. The best that can be said about a conventional stage set, I guess, is that at least it does not distract from the action… (I probably prefer gadget-y stage designs, though, and fear I will be disappointed when I see the play myself. Last year I saw ‘Hamlet’ on stage in Dublin, in German, by the Berliner Schaubühne, directed by theatre enfant terrible Thomas Ostermeier – and it was weird, crazy and SPECTACULAR in its radical modernity and starkly symbolic design. THAT’s what theatre should be – challenging, modern, applied to OUR time…)
    So the voices are amplified? Again, not something I like, even though I understand the reasoning behind it.
    What is more worrying, though, is what you say about the play pacing along so fast that it is hard to actually feel the impact of the words and the actions. Especially when there are such capable actors on stage, like BC, like Hinds, like Brooks.
    The reviews continue to be mixed – at least on Twitter everything seems to be fantastic. Which is why I appreciate your long review. Can’t wait to see for myself…

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m still hoping it will loosen up some and i’ll go to the cinema and see if it feels different from closer up…
      I am open to all kinds of staging, especially with opera for example there is no something that suits in all cases. But it is good to be surprised, interested, puzzled. And these days i am very ‘monetary’ in my thoughts. When big money is spent, as here, i expected it to be shown cleverly, not in decor if you know what i mean 😉 I think the times for paintings on walls and big chandeliers has passed. This is just so not with the trend in London either. We may not go all the way Regie here often but come on, when a staging like The view from the bridge gets an Olivier it says something. For traditional i’d rather like the Globe, paired down and clever. If expensive then i need it to deliver. Gosh, if people who saw this could only see some of Devlin’s other sets! I think the same thing could have been done with black simple walls and much less money if that is all there is to it.
      I also wonder why they went this way, so ‘tame’. It is so not what i expected to see, what audience did they think they were showing this to? It’s supposed to be more than usual young people, i doubt most people would not have appreciated something a lot more daring. The one next to me was bored beyond words and didn’t stop figdeting and yawning throughout. Shakespeare is so timeless, we were wondering with my friend if they wanted to go traditional why not actually traditional, maybe it would have worked better? Not sure, i am not convinced tbh. Maybe RSC is more traditional sometimes, but not necessarily and the acting is ehem, sorry to say of a slightly different standard then. This disappointed on both counts somewhat.
      I am somewhat puzzled what happened here, given the creative potential of everyone involved.
      It is not bad in any way! I don’t want people to get the wrong impression 🙂 I just wanted it to be extraordinary because i think it could be. So far it has not lived up to the other things i’ve seen this year, but i am not giving up just yet 🙂


  2. I was really looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this, and it was worth the wait. I agree that there is an odd lack of relationship between almost all the characters. I attribute it to too many cuts in the wrong places. Horatio’s relationship to Hamlet is key and it doesn’t get fleshed out. Nothing between Gertrude and Claudius, as you say, which is a shame because H. could have easily made us feel his desire for her. I gathered that it was all political, she was a tool he used to become king. Even Polonius’ love for his children, which is very real, was not visible in this production. Hamlet is cerebral and rational and clever but not anguished. I felt it was a portrait of a sad and angry but brilliant young man–too young to accomplish what the ghost wants him to do. Not a mature adult who experiences a kind of existential crisis. As for the set, I was hugely impressed with its expansiveness and depth and detail, but I have far less experience of these things than you. The amplification–I am almost certain that they did not use it the night I was there, because it was actually quite difficult to hear some of the characters. Especially Ophelia in the first half, but even Hamlet seemed to be speaking very softly at times so that it was hard to hear him from the back. This is maybe be why they made the decision to use the mikes.

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    • I suspect as much with the amplification. And i excuse it because of the place and it’s velvety coverings. I would not excuse it anywhere else tbh. Projection and delivery on stage is part of actor’s jobs and it is not about being loud but about being clear and making your words reach out. I’ve seen things at the Globe in open air and it is never amplified. I think solutions could have been found without amplification, but fair enough. I don’t think it is really a factor in why this doesn’t quite work.
      The many cuts are certainly part of it and added to the pace it doesn’t tell enough.
      And yes i also felt Hamlet was really young and intelligent, but because of that i wondered why he wasn’t more emotional, being so young and not really knowing what to do and where to go… It would have made more sense to be so restrained if he was older?
      I almost want to say it was a bit clinical when Shakespeare can be so gutsy and fiery 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, because this is BC, I was expecting a cerebral Hamlet up against a more earthy, Alan-Bates like Claudius. What we got was a young, cool, cerebral Hamlet up against a mature, cool and calculating Claudius. I thought H. stole the show in the ‘Do it England’ scene where he finally revealed his anger. But that was one of the few scenes that really grab you by the shoulders and shake you. Otherwise it was the pleasure of the language being delivered so lucidly, and there were the comic bits, and a certain pathos was achieved by Ophelia and Laertes in the second half. Also, I loved Karl Johnson. I’m looking forward to seeing it again in the broadcast and noting where things have changed and (perhaps) gained more depth.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yes i also enjoyed all the moments you mentioned, it is definitely worth a see 🙂 I am also curious how it will work in the cinema, definitely going. And yes , the text was really well delivered i enjoyed that! I love Shakespeare and it is nice to be able to understand it almost instinctively because it is spoken so naturally 🙂 Definitely one of the positives of this production.

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  3. Also–I forgot to say that I agree with you about the way she staged the Mousetrap. Having Claudius face away from the audience was just inexplicable. When you have an actor that good, why waste the chance to let him show Claudius’ reaction as he becomes more and more upset???

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      • It’s interesting that in spite of all the comments about “dumbing down” Shakespeare, she did not direct the actors to give really broad performances. Instead they almost all underplay. This really struck me when watching clips of Branagh’s filmed stage version as well as his movie. Compared to BC, he seemed to be ranting and raving–but you also felt all the raw emotions.
        Another thing that took me by surprise was that she had Hamlet give his acting advice to the Player King. Usually he gives it to members of the company but not directly to the king himself, who is supposed to know something about acting, or else why is he given so much stage time? It just seemed off, and in fact the Player King looked a little surprised to be lectured 🙂

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        • Yes, that was one of the things that puzzled me, also because i didn’t think the player Kind was a really strong actor, he didn’t come cross like that to me, not with all the experience and knowledge the text implies he has.. just one of those things.
          By no means do i think they dumbed down Shakespeare in any way! Really some of what the papers have said is just off and very prejudiced. But i would have wanted them to be bolder, daring, which is what i think a younger audience would certainly have enjoyed more.
          LOL Branagh… i can’t imagine him playing cool as cucumber, whatever he plays, he is such a gutsy artist (it feel McAvoy for example also comes as an actor from a similar place of expression). Thing is there are so many possible interpretations of Hamlet. I think it was a bit obvious to let Benedict play a cool one.. and i am maybe in the minority(?) of those who think that is not necessarily him or his main way of acting. He play them well because he is a well trained and intelligent actor. But if i think back to his Frankenstein… its was profoundly emotional. And his Turing was so vulnerable, both of these things i would have loved to see in his Hamlet.

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  4. I’ve already write that…….but this is when I regret most living so far away from London! Thanks a load for your great insight tale and btw those who are horrified by modern staging should attend opera Regietheater 😉 They haven’t got the faintest idea on what to expect!


    • Lol, I know right, if only people saw what we have seen ;-))) this would be downright boring 😉 But i don’t need naked grannies running around like ghosts to not be bored either 😉
      I was frankly surprised by people who criticised this staging in that it was contradictory because there have been much bolder things on stage in London that were appreciated. But who can understand the critics anyway! And oh, i don’t know this is not one to be so sorry about 😉 You could maybe watch it, do you get the theatre stuff in cinema? I know in Germany they do and in the States but i am not sure if this makes it everywhere? I would think maybe yes, it should show on October 15 in international cinemas too if you are curious about it 🙂
      But to give you an idea, you know the Manon Lescaut here? , much more exciting on all levels tbh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • No way I get to watch it in a cinema. ……I can’ t even watch the Live in hd transmission from the ROH or/and from the Met as the nearest they’re shown is some 300 km away!


        • 😦 that is a real pity 😦 what a shame! at least with some of the Globe stuff they now have an online player and for example the Henry V is on it and it is fabulous, and Digital Theatre have quite a few both opera, ballets and theatre productions even frm recent seasons 🙂 Who knows, maybe this one will show up on one of these platforms too….

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    • don’t worry, i was too tired to do the editing before posting and i bet reading gave people aches 😉 Fixed now but i need to discipline myself to do it before posting 😉


  5. Thanks for recording your impressions. I, too, have been reading mixed reviews (and the Guardian more or less took the position that the hype is killing what isn’t such a terrible play, sort of damning with faint praise). To me, frankly, what you refer to as the problem of Hamlet never having time to deal with anything because too much happens too quickly, however, is first and foremost a problem in Shakespeare. H. just has too much to deal with (I know, sacrilege) and the soliloquies, as striking as they are, are insufficient as opportunities to process. If cuts are made, it makes that problem worse. yet if the play is slowed down, it is too long to watch in a single evening.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think the circus affected a lot of the reviews as well and i do think some of the stuff written is unfair to the play. It is certainly not a bad version of it.
      Hamlet is not an easy play, many problems and length is one of course, what is cut is always the question. But we know from last year that length need not be a problem for the public also. This clocks in at under 3h with a 20min interval. At Globe most Shakespeares tend to eb 3h 15-h h 20 with a 15 min interval. They could have easily cut 30 min less without making it an unbearable night. Man and Superman i saw earlier in the year was also 3h30-3h 40 with just a 15 or 20 min interval. And that one had longer monologues and nobody was coughing or yawning anywhere near me (which was the case this evening).
      The problem for me was rather that they weren’t daring enough and didn’t give the audience enough to look at, enough to engage with. No shocks, no tension. For as short as they made it to have people yawn and cough incessantly… that indicates a problem with the production. People sit in cinemas for 3h + movies sometimes with no intervals (here we certainly never do intervals at cinemas) and nobody feels it is a chore. They obviously worried about keeping people’s attention and went for fast and short.
      You’d think none of them have ever been at the Globe and saw people standing through Shakespeare not being bored for a minute. Not all of them 😉 But many teenagers, from all different countries without English as their native language can be drawn in if it is well done. And the Globe has less technical means at their disposal.
      It really saddens me that i think the way this is done with many people it just re-enforced the prejudice that Shakespeare is not very contemporary and not very exciting.
      I keep going back mentally to both the Macbeth and the Richard III Jamie Lloyd did at Trafalgar Studios. A bit extreme at times but fascinating experiences and i feel such a version of a bit too much is much better than one that does not enough.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Danke für die lange und interessante Zusammenfassung. Das mit den emails ist ja der Hammer! Wer unbedingt fotografieren muss lässt es ja doch nicht sein, leider. Vielleicht sollten sie konsequent alle rausschmeißen, das würde bestimmt helfen 🙂
    Bis zum Oktober ist es bei uns ja noch lange hin und so habe ich nicht wirkich Angst vor spoilern….vor den langen Monologen graut mir allerdings ein bisschen, mein Angetrauter schafft es dann schon mal einzuschlafen und ich hoffe, ich kann die Augen offen halten. Besser ich lese die Story vorher noch einmal bevor ich völlig den Faden verliere. Insgesamt hatte ich den Eindruck ist es sehenswert?

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    • Ja auf alle Falle sehenswert! und die Leute ubertreiben echt machtig mit der Lange, die wenn man sich die auf youtube ansieht, Branagh’s Version ist die einzige komplette, aber es war eine Filmversion, nicht Buhne, die anderen, sie langsten Monologe sind kaum 3-4 Minuten 🙂 Echt, es ist nicht mehr, und da ist meist mit Intro usw also Dialoge mit anderen usw. Hier ist keins wirklich so lang weil sie alle etwas runtergeschnitten sind, ungef 2-3 Minuten vielleicht. Und sie sind so eingebaut dass man sie gar nicht sehr als stop Monolog start warnimmt, sie sind alle sehr gut eingebaut.
      Echt, im Vergleich dazu war das Geschwafel in Man und Superman meilenlang! LOL und langeilig war auch das nicht. Das Ganze dauert mit Pause weniger als 3h, es fagt ja erst richtig um so 7,20 an und 10,15 oder 10,20 ist es vorbei,und das mit 20 Min Pause. Hamlet hat viel zu sagen nicht weil es so ellenlang war, sondern weil er halt fast immer auf der Buhne ist und viel mehr Zeit einnimmt.
      Und ich finde es ist gut genung gemacht dass man sicht nicht langweilt. Es sieht gut aus usw. Du wirst aber sehen, du kennst ja Theater in Deutschland, dir wird es sicher auch leicht unriskant und traditionell erscheinen. Aber ich wurde auf alle Falle hingehen, Es sind gute Schauspieler und wie Linnet zB sagt, es lohnt sich auch deshalb die Sprache so schon zu horen und so klar, der Text scheint fast leicht so naturlich wird er gesprochen 🙂
      Ich bin auch gespannt wie es auf der Leinwand ruberkommt.

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  7. Ich habe HAMLET im Kino gesehen und ich wünschte, es hätte mal einen Newsletter und How-to-behave-Anweisungen im Kino gegeben. Dieser ganze Hype um das Stück und den Hauptdarsteller ging mir derart auf die Nerven. Es verging ja kein Tag, an dem es nicht irgendwelche Nachrichten zum Stück oder vom negativen Verhalten von Fans gab. (siehe hierzu auch meine Review: ) Das Stück hat mir dennoch sehr gefallen.

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  8. I saw the NT Live version tonight (“encore performance”). It was okay / fine — not breathtaking. I felt a bit sorry for Cumberbatch in that so much pressure was laid on this production because of him — that must be difficult — and it turned into circus that in retrospect seems all about him and not at all about the play itself. In film, the second half loses serious tempo — and then ends abruptly. The first half is much better. However, I agree with you completely about the curious lack of emotion in the whole production. “My” Hamlet is someone who’s driven first and foremost by grief, and I *never* got a sense of that in 3.5 hours; I felt like Cumberbatch was all technique and almost no feeling. I love the soliloquies in this play; I still find them profound; I never had the impression that he did. It was all very mannered. I also thought Sian Brooke’s performance was disastrously bad (apart from her speech being almost incomprehensible) and Ciaran Hinds’ not much better. For me the strongest players were those playing the late Hamlet / gravedigger, Gertrude, Polonius, Laertes and Horatio, and that’s a bit strange. Oh, and the Rosencranz/Guildenstern duo. On the whole I didn’t find the staging over the top but considering how detailed it was I thought it seemed random. Ophelia always carrying around a camera? A red phone and a green phone, neither of which rings, and Hamlet picks up the red phone? (This seemed like some kind of bizarre 1930s symbolist thing that I just did not get.)

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    • > “My” Hamlet is someone who’s driven first and foremost by grief> this… oh i just can’t wait for you to see the Andrew Scott one!! and to talk to you about it proper 🙂 I’ll get back to your thoughts on the Benny Hamlet, i agree with you on all counts, i felt the same. Having said that i do think he’s a better actor than his Hamlet performance, his Frankenstein/Victor was much more powerful, which is curious. I think the pressure, the focus on him along, the fussiness of the production all dragged it down. It’s very very hard for well known actors not to buckle under the pressure of Hamlet. Some are lucky in that it comes to quickly they don’t have time to feel it, to some it comes as a surprise (like Tennant famously surprised by the BBC News appearing in Stratford on the day of the premiere)

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    • but i’ll get back with more thoughts 🙂 I love the play and the more i see of it the more i appreciate its complexity. But it is also obvious it is only a great Hamlet if the rest of the cast and the production and directorial vision lift it to that level. This had plenty staging but very little direction i felt.

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      • I was thinking that last night, too — what a genius play. And it can go into different directions, obviously; I would never argue the only Hamlet is a grief-stricken one. Overwhelming grief is the stepping off point that can feed several other moods; but the whole machine has to be working correctly, I agree, and your point about how the characters are so detached that they almost don’t seem to be in relationship to each other is spot on here. The fact of Hamlet’s grief (or whatever emotion he’s showing) has to have real consequences for the responses of the other characters.

        Totally agree re: staging; it often seemed dance-like and I thought to myself “why did that work for The Crucible and why is it in comparison so empty here?”

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        • I think the pressure got to all, director has done great work before and Es Devlin has produced more inventive and restrained stagings. The secondary roles were as you said very well cast, mostly people who have done quite a bit of Shakespeare before and it showed. Ophelia was sadly a very weak point and it does take away from the show more than one thinks if she doesn’t add to the emotional context. And it is always such a tricky relationship to portray as there are not many words written for it.. but it’s where good productions get creative. I have seen Hinds do excellent work and was disappointed too. Thankfully seen him since and he is fabulous in Girl from the North County 🙂
          On Frankenstein, well.. it was Danny Boyle… and it was so clever and i think the fact that they switched roles with Jonny Lee Miller only got both of them to do their best, they rightly won the Olivier that year, ie both of them.
          With this Hamlet i was sad because i never felt i got to know him, to understand what makes him tick, what kind of person he is. With others i have seen you always engaged with them Eesiduu , set in Africa (RSC prod) i loved, it felt to right in terms of family dynamics and he is an utterly young and hopeful Hamlet whose world just collapses and he is lost. His youthfulness was such a good element in it. Tennant and Hiddles are both more classic versions i guess but both so different! But they had great cast surrounding them. The soliloquies were soo beautiful with both of them. But while David was melancholy and sweet in many ways, Hiddles was utterly dangerous. And then Scott is just raw, it’s the first one i’ve ever seen (and it seems to have been a general reaction for people) that just happens. The grief just cracks Hamlet open, both his mind and his heart and you just live through it with him. I couldn’t stop crying, every time i saw it, it just dragged you into the depths of it. I hope to see many more, but it’s amazing how everyone can add their version. Wish i’d seen Fiennes…. And well, you know… wish he’d do it! It takes a broad range of ages and experiences. But i don’t think we’ll get that pleasure, sadly 😦

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      • I have seen Hinds in roles where I liked him better, too.

        w/ Ophelia, it’s kind of a mine field, but first and foremost I *have* to understand what she’s saying, just on a speech level — it was technically problematic. She made the songs seem random and I’ve never understood them that way. But even beyond that, b/c the play gives her so little time to explain herself, I feel like you have to get a sense in the final mad scene of why Hamlet could plausibly have been interested in her. Hers is the noble mind that’s o’erthrown, so she speaks prophetically earlier, and this particular portrayal gave no sense of her nobility. I also think it wasn’t a convincing portrayal of mental illness, either, but whatever. I can stop harping, I suppose 🙂 But it has big outcomes for how we see Hamlet. If you read Hamlet back from Ophelia in this production, he seems like an arrogant user, and I’m not entirely sure that was intentional.

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