Play Review: Hamlet dir. by Robert Icke

For those of you who are new to my review blog, welcome!  About two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of visiting London and seeing Hamlet performed at the Almeida Theatre.  A lot has happened between then and now, and after a fourth read-through of Hamlet and some family drama, I felt that it was now time to finally pen my thoughts.  And again, for those of you who are new to my blog, I want to state up front that I am by no means a critic.  While the media we produce and consume is never above critique, I’m just a humble reviewer who has a lot of love to give to the things she likes.

One of the things that I liked–loved–was this production of Hamlet, directed by Robert Icke.  This modern adaptation had an incredible cast, including Juliet Stevenson (as Gertrude), Jessica Brown Findlay (as Ophelia), and, of course, Andrew Scott (as Hamlet).  Every single person who worked on this show added a new dimension to their characters and to the play itself.  I believe it is safe to say that nobody left this show unaffected.

When I think of this production of Hamlet, I feel it, too.  I feel it at the base of my throat, and just below my sternum.  It’s a dull pang of sadness that resonates through my core.  Sometimes it’s so great that it brings me to tears, even two weeks after seeing the play.  I can’t look at watches without wanting to cry, and vases of flowers brings melancholy to my mind.  Remembering the play offers these striking memories: smashing skulls against the ground, warm lighting and the sound of music coming from another room, fiddling with watches, and the smiles shared between Ophelia and Laertes.

In fact, my whole experience regarding this play was an incredible one.  Only 8 or so months prior, I saw Hamlet in the Elizabethan Theatre at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  The Elizabethan Theatre there seats 1,190 patrons–so imagine my surprise when I found my seat at the Almeida Theatre, which seats 325!  It was the perfect size: an intimate theatre for an intimate show.

This intimacy aided me in feeling closer to the characters and their happiness and their struggles.  I cried when Hamlet cried into Ophelia’s shoulder, I laughed when Ophelia rolled her eyes at Polonius, I cried when Hamlet learns that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were sent for, and I laughed when Polonius’ asides were much more obvious to Hamlet than they should have been.  This production is a roller-coaster: it has its emotional ups and downs, it will leave you feeling exhilarated, and it will leave you feeling bereft when it’s over.  And, like a roller-coaster, it will leave you saying: “I want to do it again!”

The one scene that I want to comment upon without spoiling anything is the ending.  Beautiful.  Breath-taking.  Brilliant.  These are the words that come to mind when recalling the tear-inducing final moments of this production.  Watches, families, dancing, warm lights–in all honesty, it gave me a “Twin Peaks-y” feeling.  After watching the last minutes, I knew that what I just saw would stick with me for years to come.  Even now, as I type this, I’m getting that now-familiar feeling just below my sternum.

I have no idea how the actors can continue playing these characters so often during the week.  I waited nearly two weeks to even begin to think of rereading Hamlet, yet this amazing, talented cast carries on.  They continue to inspire others and bring tears to eyes.  I know that one day this production of Hamlet will be finished, but I truly wish that it never would.

All in all, my review can be boiled down to this: “O Hamlet, thou hast cleft my heart in twain.”

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