Wednesday, 15 December 2010


8/12/10, National (Olivier)

3 hrs 30 mins. Superfluous smoking alert.

Time Out's Caroline McGinn reckons Rory Kinnear's Hamlet was the best she's seen. Personally I'd rather be guided by the audience reaction: silence during some of the set-pieces (like the play) but a cannonade of coughing during the soliloquies. That to me suggests a decent production but a leading actor who, while perfectly intelligent and speaking the words in a way that enables one to follow his train of thought with beautiful clarity, lacks the necessary charisma.

A decent production (by Nick Hytner) but derivative: reminded me an awful lot of Greg Doran's similar modern dress production with David Tennant for the RSC last Christmas, especially the idea of surveillance (CCTV cameras in Doran's version, secret service operatives with earpieces in this).

David Calder strong as Polonius and the gravedigger. Ruth Negga the most convincing Ophelia I've ever seen -- I thought she was a genuine teenager but it turns out she's 30 or thereabouts and highly experienced. (She's also half-Irish, half-Ethiopian; Alex Lanipekun who plays Laertes is also mixed race' so presuambly this wasn't colour-blind casting but a suggestion that Polonius's late wife was black.) James Laurenson interesting but underpowered as the Ghost and the Player. Patrick Malahide definitely underpowered as a Machiavellian Claudius: a piece of very effective screen acting totally lost in the Olivier's vast spaces. Clare Higgins tottering about on a pair of very high heels playing Gertrude as a hard-bitten old party who's seen it all. (She was also very clearly miked, which in this theatre is a bonus, though I couldn't spot anyone else who was.)

The smoking? Hamlet lights up twice, the first time on his student-style mattress in a room full of piled up books... and takes no further puffs.

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