WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Almeida Theatre
WHEN: 2/3, runs to 6/4
Such was our excitement about this Robert Icke production that we had second row tickets for the first preview on 17/2.
- Read on for reasons including why Scott’s Hamlet is better than Cumberbatch’s
It was cancelled, however, due to staff changes on the production and so we find ourselves in the fourth row almost a fortnight later. We’ve marvelled about Icke’s work on productions including 1984, Oresteia and Uncle Vanya and this Hamlet includes a greatest hits of his staging tricks.
This Hamlet is modern-day and includes CCTV where we first see the ghost of Hamlet’s dead father; a handheld camera to capture the reactions of Hamlet’s mother and uncle (fine work from Juliet Stevenson and Angus Wright) during the play-within-a-play; and a corridor at the back of the stage where we glimpse important events in silence.
We caught Benedict Cumberbatch’s Hamlet at the Barbican 18 months ago and his Sherlock co-star benefits from the intimacy of this venue but Scott’s is a far more electrifying and terrifying performance which walks a line between madness and badness.
We’ve been critical of Scott’s inaudibility previously but here he savours every word, makes familiar speeches seem fresh and is mesmerising when contemplative and frequently explosive when veering off into unpredictability.
Despite the modern-day setting, it’s a familiar reading of a story of a young prince driven mad when his dead father reappears to him as a ghost telling him that he was murdered by the man who two months later married the Queen and is now King.
We’re generally critical of plays which feel too long but at three hours and 45 minutes (with two intervals) this production allows itself the time to revel in exactly how accomplished it is and the time zips by.
There’s talk of a West End transfer for this production and if the queues of fans waiting for a glimpse of Scott at the stage door stretching out into the night are anything to go by, there would be demand.
On the strength of tonight, a transfer would also be well-deserved.