Review: Hamlet

The National Theatre’s latest production of Hamlet brings comedy, despair and grief, finds

nT Live Hamlet Listings JPEG Landscape UK Venue: London Barbacan, viewed at the Picturehouse, City Screen York


As one of Shakespeare’s most debated and beloved plays, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark has yet again succeeded in keeping its audience on the edge of their seats, almost through the full three hours. National Theatre Live’s production of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch, offers a mixture of pure comedy, despair and grief, which evolves and takes the audience on a spectacular journey of sound, light, and special effects. Director Lindsey Turner has truly succeeded in bringing something new to the table with this powerful production.

Before the play starts we are shown a short interview of Cumberbatch by Melvyn Bragg, where he shares his wish for the production in making Hamlet as relevant today as it was four hundred years ago. As a more modern version of Shakespeare’s play it has, almost, a contemporary feeling to it. Although it is the strong actors who carries the intensity of the play and keeps it at height throughout, they are accompanied by powerful sound and light effects that lay the framework and strengthens the emotional drama.

Whenever a live theatre performance, like this one, is taped and put on film there is a massive responsibility on the camera crew in making it a good cinema experience for the audiences who is going to watch it around the world. Having seen my share of bad stage filming, where it is sometimes impossible to see the face of the person talking, the filming of Hamlet made watching it a real treat. With the play being a good mix of close-ups and large scale filming, with a special attention to good angles, it made me feel like I could see better the actors than if I had been to the live performance. Although there is something special about live theatre, National Theatre Live’s skilful filming of Hamlet shorten the gap and gives the audience a memorable experience.

Walking home from the viewing I fall behind a mum with her two children: a boy at about ten and a girl at about fifteen. They are discussing the play and their enthusiasm and excitement when talking about the production is unmistakable. Hamlet, first performed over four hundred years ago, is still relevant and still draws audience to the theatres (or cinemas) all over the world.

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