Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Review of "Hamlet"

Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Gregory Doran

Hamlet: “On Fortinbras, he has my dying voice. So tell him with the occurents more and less, which has solicited, the rest is silence.”

Okay as Shakespearean plays tend to go, I’m more of a “Merchant Of Venice” sort of guy compared to a “Hamlet” one. I don’t dislike tragic plays but this one isn’t really a favourite of mine and if it wasn’t for a certain depiction of it, I don’t think that I would be writing a review of it for my blog.

“Hamlet” as a story has always seemed rather simplistic in its own complexities as well. You’ve got your titular prince bordering on madness, trying to avenge his father’s death but losing himself more to the point where his death always seemed painfully inevitable. That doesn’t mean I’m unsympathetic to the character or his plight but he’s far from my favourite character in classic English literature.

Plenty of actors over the years have taken on the role of Hamlet and it’s certainly an interesting role for a certain actor to take on in their career. Kenneth Brannagh has probably done one of the best versions of it and in recent months, it was also announced that John Simm would be taking on the Prince Of Denmark for the stage as well.

Back in 2008, David Tennant took on the role with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford Upon Avon for nearly six months and I was one of the unlucky people who didn’t get to see his performance of it on stage, which is why I was glad to learn that the BBC were doing their own version for broadcasting in 2009.

I watched this on original transmission and since then, I’ve bought the DVD to watch it again and I have to admit that I’m impressed. I know some of the acclaim that David Tennant got for playing Hamlet really bordered on hyperbole and while there have been more storming versions of the tragedy, the man does good with the role.

I think that’s down to the fact that David was a veteran with the RSC, knows his Shakespeare like the back of his hand, even got to meet the bard in an episode of Doctor Who and also because director Gregory Doran modernises the play without doing the source material a massive disservice in any way, shape or form.

Okay, so I’m not used to Hamlet jumping between modern clothing, the use of video cameras or the leading man bound and gagged to an office chair when quizzed about the death of Polonius but all of these bits did add to this version of the play with plenty of aplomb.

In terms of performances, I’ve already mentioned how good David Tennant is as Hamlet but for me, it’s Patrick Stewart who stole the entire thing. His performance as Claudius is the most captivating thing about the whole affair and I would also like to give some props to Mariah Gale as the unfortunate Ophelia and Penney Downey as Getrude who are all brilliant but to be fair, there isn’t a duff performance from any of the cast in this at all.

- This aired on Boxing Day 2009 and to be honest, it was one of many times we saw David Tennant during the Christmas period.
- Edward Bennett who played Laertes also played the role of Hamlet on stage when David Tennant had to have back surgery.
- During one of the nights this was performed, David had announced that he was leaving the role of Doctor Who to a shocked NTA audience.
- The extras for the DVD include a commentary by director Gregory Doran, Sebastian Grant and Chris Seager and a Making Of feature.

As a stage/screen version of “Hamlet”, this already has it’s own notoriety going for it and for David Tennant, it’s definitely going to go down as one of his best performances in both mediums to date. A worthy take on the play, that’s for sure.

Rating: 8 out of 10.

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