Pre or Daned

jude-4501I wasn’t sure what to expect with this Hamlet, it’s the third I’ve seen in about a year (Tennant, Bennet) and going back further I’ve seen a few great ones over the last few years (Mark Rylance at the Globe stands out). As you probably know I’m not in a position to professionally critique but a punter’s view is always just as valid.

Its a very paired back version compared to the splendour of the RSC and Tennant. A reduced company, a clever hardworking set and lighting design. In fact there are some real delights in the versatility of the lighting and the agility of the set. The use of fabric and gauze to break the 4th wall allows the play to maintain fluidity and momentum throughout. The special effects are used sparingly and effectively.

So what about Jude. If David Tennant hadn’t done Hamlet so recently and done such a stellar job of it then this would be a contender for one of the stand out theatrical events of the year (that I’ve seen at least). I don’t know for sure but was there someone at the Donmar looking at the schedule wishing that the timelord would fall flat on his face… Tennant nailed it and thankfully neither the Donmar nor Jude Law are interested in imitation or hanging on another’s coat-tails.

This is an angry Hamlet, he channels and convinces as a son pushed to very edge of his existence with righteous fury. He simmers, flares and then is incendiary with rage. He is driven, intense and livid while maintaining his cunning, intelligence and sense of revenge. At what point he becomes mad and ceases pretending will be debated but his motivation and integrity is consistent throughout. I was surprised, impressed and delighted by this Hamlet, Jude must be exhausted after every performance, his commitment and talent isn’t in question for a moment. This is a very good Hamlet, I won’t split hairs I prefer Tennant’s over all but I’d see this again with pleasure.

The rest of the cast are a bit dazzled by Mr Law’s performance, they don’t seem to hit the bar he’s raised. Comparisons to their RSC contemporaries are inevitable, I’d say that with some exceptions in the supporting characters the RSC win each duel. There is no frisson or tension with Gertrude, Claudius doesn’t scheme with enough intensity and Polonius fails to blend the dotage, comedy and officiousness. I’m not saying they’re bad, they’re very good. But this is one of the most performed plays in the world so unless you bring your A game and/or something astoundingly new you won’t make the list.

If you get a chance to see this then do, if you can wait and it’s more appropriate for you to see it on Broadway then get q’ing.

I’ve really enjoyed the Donmar’s West End season, they’ve brought interesting material, big names and new productions to the heart of TheatreLand, I hope the full houses and good reviews will encourage them to do it again soon.

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