I was lucky enough to have tickets to Hamlet last night and I have to start by saying it was worth every penny! (And yes, I got one of those tickets that cost a lot of pennies…)
Of course, Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet is the big draw card for this production. I was expecting him to be good (I’m a Sherlock fan, after all) but his nuanced performance exceeded my expectations. I’ve never liked Hamlet as a character but Cumberbatch’s interpretation actually made me appreciate the rationale behind his actions and sympathise with him in a way I never have before. This is a very modern Hamlet, from the comedic touches throughout his feigned madness, to his genuine tears falling throughout his soliloquies. They say there are as many Hamlets as there are actors who play him, and this is by far my favourite version to date.
The rest of the cast is equally impressive. A particular mention goes to Ciaran Hinds (who you probably recognise as Mance Rayder from Game of Thrones) – he was born to play Hamlet’s evil uncle, Claudius, and a large part of the success of the production is down to him.
But the unexpected star of the show was the set, which was one of the most spectacular I have ever seen (you could hear the audience gasp as the curtain opened). In particular, the transformation from first to second half, as the state of Denmark becomes progressively more rotten, was cleverly executed (I won’t ruin it for you… but, wow!)
Yes, the frequent requests to switch off your phone can be a bit of a buzzkill, but I didn’t have any reception anyway and it’s nice to enjoy being in the moment without any distractions.
If you have the means and opportunity, make sure you don’t miss this performance. There are 100 tickets available each day for £10 each but you’ll need to queue from about 4am – check out Time Out for advice. If you can’t make it to the Barbican, you can also see it live in the cinema on 15 October (visit National Theatre Live for details).
The good: Aside from obviously brilliant cast, I am obsessed with the set – I want to redecorate my flat in teal and chandeliers!
The bad: The production is almost three hours long plus interval… and if you don’t bolt to the single Ladies room as soon as the interval curtain closes, you won’t make it in the time. Bear that in mind when you’re downing pre-show Proseccos!
The insider tip: Seats on the left have a slightly better view due to the angle of the stage.