Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Mary's Review of a Hamlet Production

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Personally, I was not a fan of National Theater Live production of Hamlet.  But then again, I probably shouldn't have sat through a three hour play while recovering from what was probably the flu.

My primary impression was that it was a bit more dark and mellow dramatic than the play was in my head. Hamlet is a dark play, but the additions of music, strange noises, low lighting, and dark painted walls, all made it less real to me.  The darkness continuous throughout the play and offered little contrast to play against.  It was also very elaborate and I'm not sure if this is was done in a good way.  The scenery had odd things placed about, including the random doll house, that had uncertain meaning.  Everything was very decorated, sometimes without clear purpose.  I was reminded of a discussion in class about being wary of effects that are distracting.  I think they definitely succeeded in creating the brooding mood they wanted to create with their mostly dull colors and lighting, even if I didn't really like how it was done or how clearly orchestrated it was.  

Speech-wise, some of their lines and speeches were far to emphasized and didn't flow very naturally or else didn't create enough of a contrast.  How can you feel the emotion of a powerful moment when every line is expressed in passion anyway?  Their movement to these lines too was often unnatural, such as sliding around the floor.  As many have mentioned, I also had difficulty with the lack of historical cohesion in the setting.  I wished that they would pick a single time period rather than jump about.  There is a lot to be said though about the clothe changes that Hamlet goes through.  At a kind of climax of the play, he is wearing an interesting mix with the king coat, soldier pants, and David Bowie shirt.  I actually like this outfit, strangely enough, because it did a good job of portraying his confusion, especially as he played so many different roles in trying to get revenge.  It also seemed to me to portray a little of the excitement that he seems to feel in this part of the play.

On the other hand, the actors did really well (barring Ophelia).   Gertrude and Claudius were great and fairly believable.  Even though I wouldn't have imagined him as Hamlet, Benedict Cumberbatch did an amazing job.  I remembered why he'd been my favorite actor for a long time. Polonious was my favorite.  He was actually funny and lovable.  He spoke his lines in just the right manner, unlike others, and used just the right pauses to make them hilarious.  I was sad when he died. It was nice to see a live production so that I could get a sense of how things might have happened since Shakespeare gives us very little detail of time and setting.  I would recommend that people do watch performances of his plays.


  1. I went to the filming with a friend who has spent a long bit of her life on the stage. During intermission she was expressing her distaste for the clothing as well. "Why can't they just pick something!?" she said. I kind of liked that there wasn't a time period. Pretty postmodern, you know. But I can totally understand your viewpoint there, as it could be confusing.

  2. I actually loved how all you couldn't pin down an exact era for the setting. I thought it showed how the play was so timeless and had influenced generations.