Saturday, July 25, 2015

Review of Hamlet (Stratford 2015)

This year's Hamlet, directed by Antoni Cimolino, makes sense. I say that as the highest praise. I've seen the play many times and it never flowed so naturally before.

Like... Ophelia's pregnant. She always struck me as a bit of a cry-baby, going bonkers because she gets jilted and her dad dies. Add the pregnancy, and we see a young woman whose brother is far away, whose father is killed by her powerful ex-lover - who is without protectors, pregnant... it all clicks into place. When Laertes says to the other mourners at Ophelia's graveside, "Now pile your dust upon the quick and dead" - it's completely obvious that she's meant to be pregnant, but I have never seen a production before where she was.

Once Ophelia is pregnant, she becomes much more central to the plot. For example, it makes sense that Laertes is in such a murderous rage at Hamlet, to the point that he wants to stab him with a poisoned sword and poison his wine.

Another first for me is that Cimolino's production is not introspective. Hamlet doesn't do soliloquies in this production: he narrates. He speaks directly to the audience, even at times pointing at individuals. That turns the whole play on its head. It took me a bit to get used to that.

In this production, "To be or not to be" is perfectly easy to understand. There's nothing cryptic about it. Hamlet is facing two options: keep quiet and stay alive, or take action against his uncle. He knows that he has to take the second option, and that it will lead to his death, so he muses about death.

The dialog in this production is naturalistic. Everything makes sense, and the characters interact naturally. Even in very good Shakespeare productions, there is often a problem that the actors focus more on the magnificent language than on creating a character. Of course the language is the jewel, but I want distinct believable characters with depth and nuance.

1 comment:

Ferd said...

We saw an early preview. Cimolino was seated a row in front of us and across the aisle, taking notes. We were pleased to have the opportunity to congratulate him after the curtain fell. Great review and great performance.