Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hamlet on Broadway

Times square
Hamlet on Broadway
Donmar Warehouse production of Hamlet
at the Broadhurst Theatre
7 October 2009, 7:30pm

Ross Armstrong (Cornelius)
Harry Attwell (Guildenstern)
Ron Cook (Polonius, Gravedigger)
Ian Drysdale (Osric)
Peter Eyre (Ghost of Hamlet's Father, Player King)
Michael Hadley (Barnardo, Priest, Captain)
Colin Haigh (Member of the Court)
Sean Jackson (Reynaldo)
Geraldine James (Gertrude)
James Le Feuvre (Member of the Court)
Gwilym Lee (Laertes)
Jenny Funnell (Player Queen)
Jude Law (Hamlet)
John MacMillan (Rosencrantz)
Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Ophelia)
Kevin R. McNally (Claudius)
Henry Pettigrew (Marcellus, Gravedigger, English Ambassador)
Matt Ryan (Horatio)
Alan Turkington (Fortinbras, Francisco, Player)
Faye Winter (Member of the Court)

Michael Grandage (Director)

This Broadway production of Hamlet opens with Jude Law crouching on a darkened stage as ominous music rumbles through the theater. The action that follows takes place in an empty interior with high marble walls. 2 massive sliding doors in the back can open to reveal a shallow exterior space. The cast is in modern dress & mostly in black, of course. In one of the production's few scenic effects, snow falls on Hamlet as he recites "To be, or not to be?"

Jude Law's Hamlet is dominated by the emotion of disgust, & Mr. Law communicates this well, though he displays a limited emotional range otherwise. He does cut a trim & attractive figure on stage & shows occasional flashes of amusing mime, as when imitating the walk of a crab or an ape. His best piece of business was when he moved apart the chairs set up for Claudius & Gertrude in the play scene. The rest of the cast was a mixed bag, though I liked Kevin R. McNally's unflappable Claudius, with a speech pattern reminiscent of a British Prime Minister. I also liked the simple presence of Geraldine James as Gertrude.

The production itself is rather tame & without distinctive moments. I was dismayed that Laertes's followers are dropped entirely from IV.v. Instead, Laertes simply walks into the scene as if he just happened to be passing by. I was also upset that we lost half of Gertrude's narration of the drowning of Ophelia. They also truncated a favorite speech of mine, when Hamlet admonishes Polonius, "Use every man after his own desert, & who shall 'scape whipping?"

There was a only one intermission, taken after III.i. This meant that the 2nd half was an endurance test at over an hour & a half long. I think we all would have benefited from a 2nd intermission, & I was impressed by how well-disposed the audience was despite the static staging. The seats around me were populated mostly with teenage girls. A pre-curtain announcement requested the audience to "refrain from texting during the performance." The young lady next to me periodically checked her mobile phone anyway.


The Opera Tattler said...

I can't even finish reading this review because your description of Mr. Law's acting is so hilarious. It is actually really hard to even type now. Good work!

Axel Feldheim said...

Gosh, I don't know what to say. I guess I succeeded at something.