Today, I went on an outing to the cinema. Earlier in the week, my cousin suggested that we should see William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Having some information but never seen the play before, I agreed to come. What the audience would normally see is a traditional Shakespearean show, set in the seventeenth century with actors, dressed in Stuart costumes and belting out Shakespeare’s wonderful, yet sometimes confusing, dialogue. However, this wasn’t the case.
Indeed, this production of the show, live from the Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre did stick to the lines. However, there have been a lot of changes. For instance, the setting for the play is in 21st century Denmark, all the actors have different British accents; Scottish, cockney, etc. The massive difference however is some of the characters are portrayed by women. These include Polonius (renamed as Polonia), Rosencrantz and Hamlet, who is played by the wonderful Maxine Peake.
Peake delivered a gripping, intense and funny portrayal of Hamlet. I was hooked into her character; I was unsure if the director and/or producers were trying to show the main character as a young adolescent. If they did, then Peake was right person for the role. As the Prince of Denmark, I could easily see her emotions and feelings, being brought to life on her own and with the cast. Also, I give her top marks for the famous To Be or Not to Be monologue; it was spoken to true perfection.
I also give credit for Gillian Bevan and Katie West for their wonderful portrayals’ as Polonia and Ophelia. Both women were equally wonderful. One, who gave out the most comical laughs. The other, who gave me tears when it came to the important bits in the play. They, like Peake, had me on the edge of my seat. One minute, I’ll be laughing, the next crying. I must confess, I had more heart for Ophelia, with all the trouble she had to go through Hamlet’s ordeal.
The set is incredible – they had light bulbs, which lit up when the Ghost is contacting Hamlet from the dead and they had a graveyard, full of clothes. They even had Ophelia’s dress (which West wears in the show) buried in the pile, representing the character and had a few jumper’s crafted into skulls. This is genius; you would never expect any of this in a Shakespeare play. The music gives me the chills in my spine. It’s kind of like composing a detective story; you hairs get spiked up and it makes your body freeze, like you are outside on a cold, December evening. They are instrumental pieces done right.
Overall, this modern re-telling of Hamlet is excellent. If it comes out in cinemas again or on stage, I would recommend it. Although it’s one of the world’s most filmed story, I guarantee that you’ll never look at Shakespeare’s play the same way again.