Tuesday, 2 June 2009

jude law as 'hamlet' - donmar west end at wyndam's

Creative Team

Director: Michael Grandage
Designer: Christopher Oram
Lighting Designer: Neil Austin
Composer & Sound Designer: Adam Cork

Hamlet: Jude Law

Polonius: Ron Cook

Claudius: Kevin R. McNally

Gertrude: Penelope Wilton



very still & clean & clear putting all emphasis on language

jude law's Hamlet works as a character easy to feel sympathy with as he processes through depression ~ denial ~ fury ~ impetuous tenderness with his mother ~ to cool well-bred alpha-mastery. He is always credible but never dangerous.


Fresh insight comes in the 'get thee to nunnery'' scene when it suddenly seems obvious that he is saying to Ophelia everything he has repressed saying to his mother, and this makes his avowed love for Ophelia at her graveside more believable than usual.


Ron Cook's Polonius is fine. Penelope Wilton's Gertrude manages to shine through her horrible business woman's woman's suit costume. Kevin R. McNally's Claudius too is crafted with sureness. Sadly the younger leads are all thin, and most ruinously thin vocally. Ophelia's mad scene was too pretty and much much too prettily sung (Tara Fitzgerald is still the only actor i have been convinced by in this scene).


There is no ambiguity and no emotional force in this version and I drifted out a number of times - not so much from boredom as through distraction: the fullest experience this show gave me came from Shakespeare's words, here are given a full invigoration so that the vitality of the words and the images they conjure combined with the wide openness of the  space design and the held still energy and focus in the performances kept making a head full of rich imaginings that took me away from what was happening on stage.  


And what emerges above all else is the apparent straight-forwardness of Hamlet - the character makes perfect sense and it is hard after watching this show to remember why or how countless essays have been written about his bewildering complexities. In this end this reduces the play to a series of stills and a more prosaic domestic drama than it should be. 

i will go back and watch again peter brook's 'hamlet' with adrian lester and try and figure out why the held energy in this startles and vibrates even out of the screen, whereas the apparently same kind of energy in this production arrives clear and fully formed and then evaporates almost without trace...


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