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DT

Hamlet

Posted on 2008.08.13 at 12:18
Current Mood: bouncybouncy
Tags: , , ,
So...I've been off line for a couple of days for the bestestest ever of reasons - a visit to Stratford. And since I was there, I thought it only polite to drop in and catch this Hamlet business that everyone's been going on about.


I - bloody WOW! Which is about as coherent as I've managed to be about it so far. Hamlet is one of my favourite Shakespeares anyway, and this is the best production I've seen, certainly in terms of acting standards and the experience of the theatre itself. The play (as with all plays in Stratford for the next few years, due to major refurbishment) is at the Courtyard Theatre, which used to be The Other Place but, by some very creative thinking involving a massive metal box (which, appropriately enough, really does seem bigger on the inside), has been converted into a 1000 seater with steep walls and an apron stage which makes the play very immediate. I'm told the actors love it, and you can instantly see why.

Anyhow, the Courtyard is friendly, welcoming, and devoid of the kind of pomp and peudo-awe that always made going to the RSC theatre a slightly awkward experience. I went back several times during the next day, to buy a programme to replace the one I'd left in a restaurant, to use the cafe, just to wander about. Also, in the afternoon, to join the free backstage tour they lay on every day (you need to book for this and they're very popular - we got lucky with a couple of cancellations).

The tour was such a warm event - the theatre took pains to give us a real glimpse inside, and were desperately apologetic when we couldn't immediately go backstage because the actors were still rehearsing. In compensation, they arranged for us to go onto the stage itself - I stood centre stage, where a scant few hours before David Tennant had been declaiming soliloquies, and looked up at my (I now realised) extremely visible seat and shivered. Then we got to sit in on the warm-up the company were doing (unfortunately not the Hamlet cast - several plays are in rep, and they were getting ready for The Merchant of Venice).

Hamlet itself I barely have words for. Direction-wise it was pretty satisfying - I've done some directing and tend to be hyper-critical. In this case I'd say the negative points were few - mostly in relation to the setting, which was all over the place - the soldiers, for instance, were in some cases wearing kind of WW2-style greatcoats, some had on metal breastplates, some were in proper modern green camouflage gear and hanging from imaginary helicopters. They had guns, but also swordfights. But none of it really matters that much.

David Tennant, by any standards, was a revelation as Hamlet, bringing to the part a mercurial, highly physical, witty performance that brought out the comedy where it was available and made the audience feel involved. The real strength was in portraying the gradual madness, especially how Hamlet was aware of it and turned it to his advantage. The qualities he brings to Doctor Who - the ability to turn in a moment from comic to dark to dangerous and back again - were amplified here. Honestly, he was - well - brilliant. (And I have to confess to a momentary shallow squee at the sight of DT tied to a swivel chair. Possibly I've read too much Simm/Tennant RPS, but my thoughts were pretty unrelated to Hamlet at this point, I have to confess!)

But it was by no means a one-man show. Patrick Stewart was delightful as Claudius (although less so as the ghost), Polonius was (apart from the lovely David) my outright favourite and a triumph of acting and direction, Ophelia was OK at first but really shone when she went mad. The last scene is rubbish, but that's Shakespeare's fault, and they did their very best with it. One review pointed out how the reviewer had never seen a production of Hamlet with so many laughs in it (for the right reasons!) and I'd go along with that - incredibly witty and clever, with every potential nuance and double meaning lovingly brought out.

In short, incredible. I know I've rambled, but I'm still buzzing. And no, I didn't go to the stage door - I'm not really a stage door kind of person, and anyway the play finished at ten to eleven, and we had a restaurant table booked at half past ten!


In other news, a very happy birthday to Tatlovestea, and belated but no less sincere birthday wishes to fawsley and hmpf. Love and virtual hugs to you all. :D

Comments:


angeweeks
angeweeks at 2008-08-13 19:48 (UTC) (Link)
Oooh, this is good to hear. I'll be off to see it at the end of September with my lovely boyfriend, and have to admit to already having thoughts of hanging around the Stage Door afterwards... (not that I've mentioned that to him yet!)

Anyhoo. Back to the play...I read a review the other day that said they didn't think Mr Tennant was quite ready yet to play Hamlet, so it's good to read your opinion on his performance.

I'm very much looking forward to going now; and I'm glad you enjoyed it! *bounces*
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-08-14 17:41 (UTC) (Link)
How lovely to have that to look forward to! Seriously though, if there's any way you can be in Stratford for 5.30, ring the theatre asap and book a place on the tour. Not only is it a really friendly experience, but it finishes about 6.15, which is just about the time the actors are coming in, so there's a more than fair chance of bumping into the man himself in the corridors!

I read that review too - I think that's a case of DT suffering for his celebrity. I reckon if he'd been an unknown, the critics would've been completely blown away by him.

I'll look forward to comparing notes with you after your trip! :D
vic
saintvic at 2008-08-13 20:01 (UTC) (Link)
That sounds like a wonderful experience and I am gald you had a good time. Of course I am also quietly seething in jealousy but I'll try counteracting that by watching a bit of Mr Tennant on DVD.
I, being poor, have only my dreams.
bistokids at 2008-08-14 17:43 (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to cause jealousy! I really do think I've been incredibly lucky to have the opportunity to go, and especially after getting to see Elling last year as well. I will be joining you in your DT-DVD viewing, in my case sighing for times now past!
vic
saintvic at 2008-08-14 19:25 (UTC) (Link)
Sorry to cause jealousy!

Hmmmmm somehow I don't think you are sorry at all especially when you drop Elling into the comment as well.

*seethes in envy a little more*
Strike while the irony is hot
draycevixen at 2008-08-19 13:02 (UTC) (Link)

Damn it woman! We were in Stratford AT THE SAME TIME! We may have even bumped into each other and been none the wiser.

I usually get to Stratford on trips home. My family lives in Gloucestershire and so I grew up seeing all my Shakespeare performances at Stratford. Unfortunately this time we didn't have tickets for the performance as it was sold out. I had to content myself with some lovely beers and dinner at the Garrick with some old theatrical friends.
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