Review: Hamlet

June 17, 2009
Jude Law as Hamlet

Jude Law as Hamlet

Hamlet: A Review

A Little Less of Star, and a Bit More of Subtlety

It would seem quite fitting for the first article to be published here to be on a play which despite being studied many a moons ago at A-Level, I have never seen. To be precise, I’ve only ever seen a handful of Shakespeare plays, and I’m rather happy at leaving it at that.

However, with Jude Law bursting onto the West End in the Donmar Warehouse take over of the Wyndham’s Theatre, I couldn’t resist in getting myself a ticket. Of course with such a ‘star’ taking the lead role of the deeply conflicted Hamlet tickets for this show are some of the hottest tickets in town. Queues around the corner and telephone lines struggling to cope with demand, tickets are going, going, going… gone.

One Student Night later, and a rather young, and challenging group of theatre goers and makers rose to the challenge with being part of the Donmar Warehouse’ Student Representatives, and thus… my tale begins. Much pleading and begging, I secured myself a ticket and awaited the night.

The reviews haven’t spoken highly of Law in his portrayal of Hamlet, but what do critics know? However, for once, I might possibly have to agree with some of the comments that were unleashed after the press night.

Jude Law does an excellent performance. It can’t be debated that he isn’t performing to the best of his abilities, his voice ringing from top to bottom of the auditorium, which is lucky for me as I’m sat in the Balcony in the last row. Law is possibly a little old for playing a university students age, even his receding hair line would possibly tell this too. However, Law launches himself into the role with much joyous acting. He has a knack at physicality, portraying the joker side of Hamlet, yet what Law lacks is the more subtle approaches to the character. He is quick to raise his voice with anger, which is fantastic in it’s given moments, yet he plays a more angry Hamlet than a maddening Hamlet.

It is in the supporting cast [because let’s face it, the majority of the audience are here to see Jude Law, the ‘film star’] that are the ones to boast about in this production. Ron Cook playing Polonius, manages to almost create a clown out of the character. The audience delighting in his moments of dumbfounding humour, bringing a light sense of relief to this tragedy. At times I did wonder if Cook was actually stealing the show from Law, and even now I’m unsure if this is the case.

Another notable mention must go to Penelope Wilton, playing Gertude. Perhaps Law could take some tips from watching Wilton’s ability to show her distress towards her son’s ever growing madness. Wilton captures moments fantastically┬á by using the subtleties of her acting, a mourning mother, an angry mother and lastly a dying mother.

Finally to Ophelia, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw. I’ve had a connection with this character for a year now, when I, myself played the role of Ophelia in a rather twisted version of Hamletmachine as part of my dissertation. So perhaps this would be why I’m naturally drawn to Mbatha-Raw with her sweet singing as she treads the thin line of insanity. I only wish that Shakespeare could have written more for the part of Ophelia, for the depths that Mbatha-Raw gives to the scenes, completely captures the heartbreaking story of a lost woman in a world of men.

Final Thoughts: Attracted to this production by the big name of Jude Law treading the boards of the stage to play the most well known character in the history of the theatre, I was excited. I left feeling inspired, not disappointed. Law is enjoyable to watch, he isn’t outstanding, but is an actor whose craft possibly still lies in film. It is however through the performances given by the other cast members that really drives this show. Sometimes it’s not the Star that is important but rather the subtle performers who are surrounding the lead that are worth our viewing.

Hamlet runs until the 22nd August at the Wyndhams Theatre, tickets can be brought in person from the Box Office at 10am.