The National Theatre offers a real treat for those who are keen on modern interpretations of old masters of drama. Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch, directed by Lyndsey Turner and produced by Sonia Friedman Productions, challenges the viewer to dive into a modernized version of the Shakespearian oldie. Everyone knows the tale of the Danish, slightly hysterical, prince Hamlet, beautifully suicidal Ophelia and treacherous Claudius, but let’s have a closer look at the play and what makes it different from the previous interpretations.
Shakespeare’s works are known for their lack of the three unities (time, place, action), therefore, it may be tricky to set the stage in a way that would be flexible enough to depict more than just one scene, but Hamlet starring Cumberbatch definitely pulls it off. The stage alters in front of our very eyes with the innovative use of light. What may be discouraging for some viewers is the use of particular props (camera, phone, clothing) which signal that the play is set in different times – instead of the good old XI century, we are served an oddly-looking end of the XIX century. That unexpected transition into fin de siecle is not the only surprise awaiting. The National Theatre interpretation of the play definitely has a younger, more boyish Hamlet to offer – the way he acts, his clothes, manners, even the awkward relationship with Ophelia – all created a boy who may not be what the XVI century viewers had in mind. Nonetheless, the Hamlet we get to know here may be somewhat closer to the younger audience, who may find it easier to reach out to him, to identify with him or to simply keep the story of the poisoned father and the weak torn-apart son still valid and alive. The supporting cast doesn’t fall behind. Ophelia becomes the insanity realized, without overdoing the dark and twisty. Claudius is one of the strongest, well-developed characters in the interpretation. Some may be slightly disappointed with the fading character of the mother, who is more ordinary than one would have hoped.
The tragedy has its comical moments: with Hamlet playing pretend, the traveling actors doing their part and an awfully funny scene with the gravediggers, but one may ask if this isn’t a bit too much? Does it really take so much rendition and alteration in order to rediscover Hamlet and the story behind him? Well, that’s the question everyone needs to answer for their own.
MOST POWERFUL SCENE: The ashes storming their way inside the house when Claudius makes up his mind about getting rid off Hamlet. The remarkable effect that will shake you to the very core.