Right then. How was it? Well, David is fantastic as you might expect, but, perhaps surprisingly, still isn’t *my* Hamlet. (To be honest I’m not sure anyone’s going to top Kenneth Branagh for me in this role. I saw him about 12 times back in 1988(?) at the Phoenix Theatre, I loved it so much.)
Still, with that in mind, there was a lot to like. I suspect that DT’s Hamlet is never going to be mine mainly because he’s *not mad*. He’s always play-acting mad, never truly mad. He loses control a little at certain points (with Gertrude in her closet mainly) but other than that... In my head, Hamlet genuinely has to slip over that edge, or for me, it’s all a bit shallow – and it balances with Ophelia’s madness too, that way. So, for me, the interpretation doesn’t work – although I am fully aware that it is a completely valid interpretation.
Having said that though, I adored DTs performance at the beginning of the play. He played the soul-shaking, absolute grief of Hamlet as a son mourning his father beautifully. He was a waif, a thin leaf blowing in a cold wind. I *ached* to take him home, and give him a hug, and a mug of hot chocolate. He’s a thin streak of piss, is DT, and it really showed then, to extraordinary effect. Later when he’s running around and filling the stage with his personality, he was actually somehow... less good. IMHO.
On the other hand, he was a brilliantly funny Hamlet. Anywhere in the script they could wring out a laugh, they did, and it was great – particularly the ‘To England...’ scene which DT plays restrained in a chair after a madcap chase. His attempts to edge the wheeled chair towards the exit were hysterical!
The best supporting actor involved, by the way, was DTs hair! It almost has a life of it's own. Slicked back at the beginning, wildly ruffled soon enough, for the Ghost scene and the madness. Back in some sort of order with DTs customary floppy forelock during the Returning from England/gravedigging scene. Excellent performance!
If anything though, I thought DT was let down a little by the rest of the supporting cast. Ophelia, in particular, was awful. Actually, perhaps that’s unfair – she was dull. Which may be worse. Her mad scene was nothing I hadn’t already seen, and she didn’t engage my pity. You couldn’t see why she’d gone mad – she didn’t seem to care much for Hamlet or her father – so what precisely had driven her to this edge?
Patrick Stewart as Claudius was mixed. He, too, was great at the beginning, a smiling dammned villain indeed, plausible and vicious. But he never livened up – even at the end. Even in the reveal scene with the players – not enough reaction. Nothing to make Hamlet believe he was guilty or that he actually felt the guilt he talks about in the Prayer scene – unless you count him slowly shaking his head, which personally didn’t work for me.
He was good as Hamlet’s father’s ghost though – shouting and bombastic. You felt that Hamlet was not the son he’d ever wanted, that he was constantly disappointed in him – in this production there was an obvious reason why Hamlet turns out to be the vacillating unsure revenge-seeker that he is. You even feel that the Ghost even expects this – that he doesn’t expect anything better. Hamlet in this production is almost an abused son.
Gertrude’s good though – gorgeous frocks :) Her chemistry, both with Claudius and Hamlet is fantastic. And Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are as funny as all hell.
The other minor disappointment, although possibly just for me, is that there was no slashy vibe at all between Hamlet and Horatio. And there ought to be... at least in my world :) Actually, since there wasn’t any spark with Hamlet and Ophelia, I wanted my slashiness even more – and it just wasn’t there! *cries* Although the chap who plays Horatio portrays a best friend very well. Although having said that... there’s still a distance between them, even then. As though Horatio knows Hamlet is still the son of a King, and never crosses a line, is always constantly wary. Thinking about it, I felt that this Hamlet was very alone. Very lonely. Poor Hamlet. No wonder he welcomes the players so heartily.
My other praise is for the set dressing – there isn’t much, but what there is, is breathtaking. The thrones for the Play scene, Gertrude’s bedroom, the mirrors – oh the mirrors! They were perfect. Bloody hell the RSC does good set.
My final observations are of a much more venal nature :) Row B, remember? He spent a lot of the play on the floor in various ways. I spent an inordinate amount of time staring at DTs arse. It’s very fine. Oh, and his bare toes. A lot. They have little brown hairs on them. His feet are as long and thin as the rest of him. He’s very pretty. He spent quite a lot of time with his shirt untucked or his t-shirt riding up too. Dear god, I’m only human! :)