Prince Hamlet is depressed. Having been summoned home to Denmark from school in Germany to attend his father’s funeral, he is shocked to find his mother Gertrude already remarried to his Uncle Claudius.
The whole production is filled with Robert Icke’s usual detail, assurance and intelligence. Surrounded by screens, surveillance is key and the characters are never truly alone. Used to show the King’s funeral, the wedding and states of address by Norway and Claudius’ speech to his courtiers and also the entire castle, whereupon which when Hamlet’s father’s ghost crosses a screen it becomes disjointed and blurred.
Cameras circle the characters during the players performance, zooming on Claudius features as the trap is set and remains frozen on his look for Hamlet to shout with success and use as evidence in convincing those around him.
A double mirror additionally adds the characters to be under constant surveillance. Hamlet watches as his mother and uncle dance at their wedding, Claudius talks to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern before they see Hamlet, Hamlet surprises Ophelia in the bath and then rejects her causing her to rush out in a shirt to her father. At the end, we see Ophelia in her wedding dress dancing with Polonius. As each character passes, they step over the threshold to join them, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern twirl past as a sombre reminder, Hamlet hovers in between the two worlds echoing ‘To be or not to be’. The living world washed in cold, harsh blue whilst the other in bright twinkling lights promising peace and happiness.
The complicated, human interactions are at the front of this production; Hamlet repeatedly goes to Ophelia for love and comfort and then rejects her the moment she gives it to him, leaving her in a whirlwind state of confusion. Gertrude and Claudius cannot keep their hands off each other, even in the public court. Gertrude persists in comforting Hamlet who, in response, tears her self-esteem to shreds leaving her to dissolve into messy tears and have a panic attack once he has exited.
Andrew Scott presents a raw, vulnerable, human Hamlet, expertly capturing him as a person deep in the depths of clinical depression, whose debate with suicide hangs like a dark, impenetrable cloud over every scene. During moments of isolation upon stage, he genuinely seems to be confiding in us, the audience, with a rare, bruised candour that catches the heart. His ‘To be or not to be’ is as if we are watching somebody deciding whether to kill themselves there and then. Yet he is dry humoured and flippant too and easily confronts and out manoeuvres everyone is his path with his silver tongue. A wonder to behold.
Juliet Stevenson was the epitome of grace, nurture and goodness, her sense of her duty as a wife and a mother often in conflict. She pauses often, as if to weigh each word and be sure she means what she says, which causes her sudden break down after Hamlet has dragged Polonius’ dead body away to be shocking.
Angus Wright’ Claudius delivers a sinister tour de force as the Uncle turned King. From the moment he stepped on stage he was icy and commanding, never losing his temper and oozing disappointment when somebody fraternized with Hamlet.
Jessica Brown Findlay, is equally wonderful as Ophelia, a young girl caught between family duty and love, constantly switching her alliances, until through continuous rejection from all sides, she snaps and carries Hamlet’s cloud with her. During her madness, she slaps and bites both herself and the other characters, a physical manifestation of her hatred of everyone and everything.
Playwright: William Shakespeare
Direction: Robert Icke
Associate Direction: Daniel Raggett
Resident Director: Ilinca Radulian
Set & Costume Design: Hildegard Bechtler
Lighting: Natasha Chivers
Sound: Tom Gibbons
Video: Tal Yarden
Video Associate: Mikaela Liakata
Ophelia’s Song/Composition: Laura Marling
Costume Supervision Laura Hunt, Claire Wardoper
Cast: Andrew Scott, Juliet Stevenson, Jessica Brown Findlay, Angus Wright, Barry Aird, Elliot Barnes-Worrell, Marty Cruickshank, Calum Finlay, Joshua Higgott, Amaka Okafor, Daniel Rabin, David Rintoul, Luke Thompson, Peter Wight, Matthew Wynn
Photo: Manuel Harlan