Sunday, 10 October 2010

Hamlet (National Theatre)

Finally! Finally after two years of thinking about it constantly we got to see Rory Kinnear's Hamlet.
I think one of my first posts here was about Kenny Brannagh's Hamlet, always a favourite, started my Shakespeare obsession as well as my troublesome actor obsession. I think I spent a lot of the review comparing it to David Tennant's Hamlet, which I saw a couple of times and enjoyed, but this is the one, the one I had been waiting for... Beloved Rory!
I have probably talked about Rory in glowing terms here before, but let me just recap, I first saw him in the NT's The Man of Mode, an excellent fool, apparently it was after his show-stealing, award-winning success in this that they decided he would play Hamlet, but first they had to show him off, no one is going to come and see Roy Kinnear's son play Hamlet, no one's even heard of him! So they gave him some starring roles; wastrel son in The Philistines, desperate, blood-thirsty and betrayed in The Revengers Tragedies, clever, very clever angry young man in Burnt by the Sun. Such success! All amazing! All perfection and so different!! On a break he did Measure for Measure at the Almeida and got married and is now pregnant (dagger through our hearts, Rory!) But here is Hamlet!
David Tennant found much success in his comic Hamlet, he played it funny, his Hamlet was a character. Rory does not play a character, he plays THE character. He is the written Hamlet, he obviously understands it all, and because the actor understands what he is acting, my god, the audience knows too! Every meaning was crystal clear, it was all about the words- THE WORDS!
He's a clever actor. And you do need to be clever to deliver something clever- like when I saw The Power of Yes and only understood certain actors, because if a stupid actor recites some lines it usually doesn't matter, he's still an actor, he can make it work. If some pretty, spiky haired Scottish boy tells you the Earth is about to explode that's fine, we can get that, but if he doesn't get it, I'm not going to either... Tennant was good, he found jokes in it, but seeing Rory, well there's SO MUCH MORE! God, Shakespeare is so good when Rory does it!! He's a clever bastard!!
Now let's talk why the production all over was glorious.
The set, for a change at the National Theatre, was lackluster, but it didn't matter, not once the acting started, and if, like I say, acted by compelling actors, who gives a shit what the set was like? This production was all about the words. The idea of a totalitarian state was conveyed in the Tennant Hamlet through surveilance cameras littering the set (in the BBC film version anyway)- that was it. In Nicholas Hytner's current production it is truly TERRIFYING. The addresses to the state are done to camera for the people and when finished the mood in the palace changes completely, is everything a lie? No soliloquy is unheard, Claudius' people are everywhere, Ophelia is bugged while confronting Hamlet, the players are all killed instantly for knowing too much! Ophelia is murdered for the inconvenience of her madness! Claudius is a cold fucking psycho.
At last, in Patrick Malahide you see a Claudius who did not kill for love, he killed solely for that crown! And his alchy bride Claire Higgins' Gertrude is expendable, after a while you get the feeling she went along with the marriage just to stay alive! It's only the booze that keeps her smiling! The ghost! Of course she sees the ghost!- She believes her son! Because a mother would!! Brilliant direction. Claudius was evil, just evil. After seeing this version I just found both Tennant's and Brannagh's so unbelievable, their characters' motives seemed all wrong, both of those Hamlets were full of love, this is not a Shakespeare romance, it's a fucking tragedy! Everyone was full of bile and evil! Brilliant!!
God, I loved it, I fucking loved it.


  1. "Rory's pregnant, you know."
    "I told you that!!"

  2. Shakespeare is enough to drive you mad with ecstasy. His characters are human, his words immortal. There is nothing, nothing in the world, like a Shakespearean play. Nothing.

  3. Damn, that sounds like a good production, the way you describe it. I am jealous.

  4. I just saw a so-so production of Hamlet and thought of you. The fellow playing Hamlet was a total nutcase from the get-go, all yelling and twitching; he was super-dramatic in his very first speech and I thought blimey, save something for the second half! He also ran around too much. I hate it when actors do that actorly throwing themselves around the stage thing.