Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Isolation of an Obnoxious Hamlet: Christopher Muratore's Performance Analysis

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I saw the production of Hamlet live from the National Theater and starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role.  This three hour version was entertaining, yet I actually was kind of dissastisfied with the play as a whole.  I personally felt like it was trying to moderrnize the familiar characters of the play without trying to explore their nuance.  While the production was overly ambitious and inconsistent in its use of anachronisms, Cumberbatch's portrayal of the troubled Prince of Denmark sheds some interesting light on the character.  With the help of staging and costuming, Cumberbatch is able to play up the isolation of his character.  Unlike the other characters with their elaborate, brightly colored costumes, Hamlet spends much of the play adorned in black.  His dark, austere clothes combined with his confrontational brooding visually seperate him from his stagemates. His soliloquies become beautiful slow motion scenes where his movements and thoughts are independent of the other background characters.  This isolation is also exaggerated by the sprawling elaborate stage which with it's staircases and massive doorways separates Hamlet from the other characters.  Even the dark-ambient score which sounds like a careful study of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross' work in The Social Network becomes a barrier between characters, as when Hamlet plays his records during fit of madness. Unfortunately, this isolation ends up taking away the attention from the other side characters and makes them seem insignificant compared to Cumberbatch's bombastic, mopy Hamlet.  It also seems like this isolation was sometimes more of a natural product of Cumberbatch chewing then deliberate forethought.  Nevertheless, the production where Cumberbatch tries to eat a telephone is memorable in how it truly depicts a Denmark that is a prison.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree. The isolation they were trying to convey is successfully conveyed, at the expense of character development. I think they wanted Cumberbatch front and center for obvious reasons (he plays the title character and he's immensely popular at the moment, not to mention talented), but the intensity of their spotlight cast shadow on all the other characters. Gertrude failed to excite, Ophelia was a tad lackluster, and while Hamlet is supposed to be a manipulative character, it became sort of "let's see what Benedict Cumberbatch does to people next" instead of "let's see how Hamlet is enmeshed in crazy political drama with a vengeance scheme."