That it should come to this... Jude Law as Hamlet (luckily not acting most foul)

Posted by Lou. The time is 11.50am here in London, UK.

The day of my tickets to Hamlet, the 4th of Donmar Warehouse's year-long season of plays in Wyndham Theatre, finally arrived with a mixture of trepidation of excitement. Despite having eagerly read the play (this is big for me - I've never enjoyed reading Shakespeare (though hope the recent spate of excellent productions may finally bring me to it)) and lapped up cinematic adaptations, I've never seen it in its true form - on stage. Kenneth Brannagh had disappointingly stood aside as director, but the brilliant and capable Michael Grandage stood up to the plate to replace him.

And Jude Law... well, for starters I was concerned - his cinema work of late having been whingy, self-pitying, dislikeable characters and performances - but then I realised that this a potentially interesting Hamlet it would make. Well, he far exceeded my expectations - his Hamlet was not whingy or self-pitying at all, but rather a ball of despair and rage at the state of Elsinor, and anger and deteriorating self-respect at himself for failing to turn his thought into action. His physicality is charasmatic and energetic - spasmodic even - whilst also seeming pitiably contained, constantly dropping to his knees as if he might collapse into himself... or pounce. His delivery of the soliloquies [is there anything more pressured for a film star than the moment of delivering the most known of soliloquies to a full house?] was superb, absolutely fulfilling the 15 years of expectation since I memorised them in 4th form. He came across as a much better stage actor than he ever has on screen*, though I see has been criticised for the lack of wit and humour (I liked the earnestness, personally).

The supporting cast were almost wholly brilliant - Gertrude in particular stood out, and Polonius was hilarious. Ophelia unfortunately, though, provided a major disappointment. The performance completely lacked interpretation, seeming merely like a drama student delivering the lines in her best voice. A small mercy was her singing of her final scenes of madness to at least do them some justice.

The art direction was wonderful - the colour palette was all variations of slate grey with the exception of the glowing white play-within-a-play. This and the stone floor and walls conjured the immensity, cold and isolation of a stone castle to frame Hamlet's sense of being trapped.

Overall I thought it was a brilliant production, totally dominated by Jude's Danish Prince. Pray love, I'll remember.

*for the record, I actually loved him in Cold Mountain

2 thoughts on “That it should come to this... Jude Law as Hamlet (luckily not acting most foul)”

  1. Oooeee... I was so expecting you to rip this to shreds - tho that was based on similar non-impressedness of pretty much everything Jude Law has ever done previously.

    So does that mean you'll be checking him out in Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jnr...??