“To be or Not…” National Theatre’s Performance of Hamlet in Review

Pumped.  Anytime Hamlet is to be shown, I get excited.   Next to my favorite all time Shakespeare play of all time, The Twelfth Night.   I also love the fact that many people are brave enough to modernize scenes, switch around the set, the costumes, and more to reinterpret Shakespeare, that is the art of Shakespeare to be truthful, the timelessness and the ability to have meaning come through differing interpretations.

On Tuesday, January 19th, Director Lyndsey Turner’s Hamlet caused anticipation – as it is Shakespeare, it is the Lunario, and it IS Hamlet.

Beforehand I previewed any information I could find about this production, with little except knowing the profound actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, who has been in so many of London’s produtions from the Lunario, SUPERB, also was a cause for an inkling of greatness.

I could take this step by step throughout the whole production, but actually, it is much easier to cut to the chase, where actually, I thought was part of the main problem I found in this particular production not making me a fan 100% as is /was the case with many of Lunario’s productions.

The weaknesses I found and were disappointed with were that often, I found so extreme tension and emotion in the characters of Hamlet (Benedict Cumberbatch), Hamlet’s Mother, Gertrude (Anastasia Hille) and Hamlet’s Uncle, Claudius (Ciaran Hinds) had moments where honestly, I felt they were going to fall over and hemorrage but they fell short of being directed towards the source, at least to me.  The buildup was definitely there, but I felt this pressure was contained in a vessel that never actually escaped – which at times was frustrating.  I am thinking of the scenes of when Hamlet’s Uncle becomes seemingly trapped and frustrated, in private, of Hamlet seeking him out in inadvertent ways, the acting troupe that was brought in, as well as the dismay of Ophelia’s fate, (although Hamlet’s mother seemed to be more distressed than others around her).  I felt the ending as well mimicked these very characteristics I found lacking throughout, emotion that found no definite direction to be sent into, towards, or having an emotional effect on the audience.

I loved the set – even though it could be tricky, and confusing to differentiate between outside and inside, personally, being the person I am, I sought out and realized tons of symbolism, the ash blowing in once the complete disintegration of individual’s motives or souls could not be cleansed – possibly inability to differentiate between what was right and wrong inside the person and the things going on outside the person amid chaos of emotion.  Also the internal versus external conflicts of the characters and trying to find their way through this mess we know as Denmark slowly disintegrating.  I loved the toy soldier’s scene Benedict Cumberbacth found himself in, I loved the gravedigger’s scene and multiple skulls being discovered and ruminated on, the inner working and undoings of Ophelia (Sian Brooke), and the vengeful nature of Laertes (Kobna Holdbrook-Smith).

Of course, the elephant in the room is what is the most famous line going to be like, what will it FEEL like?  The To be or Not to Be Setting was emotional and definitely a buildup to be seen -this I enjoyed being depicted differently and felt was done well.

I felt clips in certain cases went too quickly, the reaction of Hamlet’s Uncle to the acting troupe, the acting troupe during the actual production, the changing /deletion of some lines that I recall from past Hamlet’s, and possibly confusing items such as why was Hamlet cuffed when we was sent away?  I thought he was not a prisoner, but yet, maybe it was to show the false pretense of looking as if he was being punished, when supposedly he was being saved by being sent away, only to be secretly plotted against to be killed.

There is so much to dive into here, and yet, that is ot just the power of Hamlet, but of Shakespeare.  Whether you are a 100% fan or not – simply, there can be discussion, contemplation, analysis, and that is a tool you discover continually way past being a student with Shakespeare as part of the curriculum.  And there are the countless example sof Hamlet, some I did not even realize!   26 Actors That Have Become Hamlet

and many to still discover way past the time they did become Hamlet.

10 Best Hamlet’s

Seeing a glimpse into some of the more famous Hamlet’s is still a buildup as you see below:




…and yet the simple fact is having the ability to see all forms of Shakespeare, the ability to see productions as this from London? – you are able to obtain something out of every show.  With Hamlet you see the effects of injustice and the breakdown deception can have in all arenas, and sometimes, just sometimes, you feel the consequences that reach across the stage.

Tonight, we see the production Coriolano, which I know nothing about.  So I have found this – and wonder what Shakespeare has left behind for us to discover.  All the world is a stage when we are free to bring our own experiences to that stage.  Then to come, Jane Eyre and As You Like It!

About Harry Brake

Employee of Woodbridge High School, Library Media Specialist, Media crazy! :)
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2 Responses to “To be or Not…” National Theatre’s Performance of Hamlet in Review

  1. Forristyna walker says:

    Hi Harry,

    Please send me your email address again; Had to get a new hard drive and lost a lot of my contacts.



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