Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Stella's Performance Review "Hamlet"

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So, I had purchased tickets to the Benedict Cumberbatch Hamlet, but I was absolutely destroyed when I arrived at the theater at 7:40, thinking it started at 7:30, and found out that it started at 7:00. My reaction was probably similar to that of David Tennant in the Hamlet montage.

Although I was disappointed I didn't witness Cumberbatch parading around the stage as Hamlet, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shakespeare Royal Company production that I watched starring David Tennant and the illustrious Patrick Stewart. I though it was interesting that this was a contemporary adaptation of Hamlet, as the clothing and setting was modern. I had heard that it was difficult to place the production starring Benedict Cumberbatch in a specific period, as the time period seemed to remain intentionally ambiguous, yet it is evident that this production was very modern. This modernity even translated into the manner in which the actors delivered the lines. I found that Patrick Stewart was more fluid in his mannerisms and line delivery, rather than the more rigid mannerisms that I have noticed in productions that are found within a more archaic period.

The set was absolutely gorgeous in this production, as everything seemed to be cloaked in a rich black. One of the most striking features of the set was the stage floor, where the majority of the scenes took place. The floor was a very glossy and reflective ebony, which seemed reflected the play's action back onto the actors. The floor's black reflective quality made it seem cold and unfeeling as it did not alter the reality of the play's tragedy, but remained indifferent to the play's tremendous sorrow. At the play's ending Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Hamlet are found lying on the glossy black surface. Maybe I'm reading too much into that beautiful floor, but I loved it haha.

I thought it was interesting that the cast took modern artistic liberties with the play. When Laertes admonishes his sister Ophelia to be careful as Hamlet might entice her to give into her passions, she mocks his advice and walks to his packed trunks and pulls out condoms and suggests that he has no room to talk. One moment that differed from the play was that Hamlet shoots Polonius through a mirror rather than stabbing him through the drapery.

I was intrigued by the frequent scene cuts to a security camera view of the play. The play opens through the view of a security camera and intermittently changes to the security camera perspective. This might be intended to make the audience feel as if they are stepping into the intimate reality of the prince Hamlet and witnessing his gradual descent into madness. Sometimes Hamlet directs his soliloquies directly into the monitors and at the climax of one of his rages he tears one of the security cameras from the wall.

Oh, and one more quick little thing . . . Hamlet wore a casual T-shirt with the image of chiseled abs on it. He pretty much looks like a voracious video gamer with his disheveled hair, yet I wondered if there was greater meaning in this shirt. I wondered if Hamlet wore the facade of masculinity after he found out about his father's murder and he consequently sought to assert his masculinity through avenging his late father. Behind the painted T-shirt image of chiseled abs stood an emotionally and physically weak man who eventually succumbed to the hatred which consumed him. Anyways, just a thought. I really enjoyed this production and would recommend this to anyone who wants to enjoy a production of Hamlet!

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