Hamlet, at the Barbican with Benedict, part 2

I'm so glad so many of you enjoyed the first part of my review of Hamlet. Thanks for letting me know!

Part 2

Now, recognizing that Ophelia is not written as the most appealing character, I found myself hoping that Siân Brooke would, in some way, redeem her. Would make me sympathetic to Ophelia's withering, whiny anxiety which ultimately does her in.

Brooke did not do this. In fact, I found her Ophelia so irritating that I kept wishing she'd drown herself sooner rather than later. One must wait until sometime post-intermission for her to throw in the towel on life. 

Brooke's voice is both trembling and somewhat nasal, and her body language and gait seem affected rather than remotely true. At times she's dressed like some sort of Victorian and at others, in a cardigan and capris, you wonder if she's just jumped from a J.Crew catalog. Her role is fairly limited in this production, and for that I was grateful.

The wonderful Ciarán Hinds played Claudius, often well but inconsistently. His primary soliloquies in the first half were excellent, but his energy in the role seemed to wax and wane. I wasn't sure if that was his doing or a directorial misstep, but in either case felt he needed to maintain and emote a greater sense of murderous treachery as the end of the play neared.

The men playing Polonius, Laertes and Horatio did a fine job as did Anastasia Hille who gave us a wonderful Gertrude

the Hamlet stage in the second half

the Hamlet stage in the second half

One of the most under-reported, impressive and exciting elements of this Hamlet is the stage. The set designer is utterly brilliant, and each alteration and the myriad uses of the main decor -walls, the staircase and balcony, the main hallway, the piano- added tremendously to the overall experience of the performance.

My sister subtly swiped this picture as we were leaving the theatre. In it you can see the enormous mounds and slides of rocks and pebbles that depict the utter destruction the second half marches toward. Ophelia marches barefoot down the dark hall, as if called to the light at the end. She turns there, and we know that the river awaits.

Hamlet and Laertes duel in the middle of the stage, Gertrude dies on front stage left and Cladius at the bottom of the grand staircase.

The whole stage is used all the time, and the lighting, colors and decor are all exceptionally well considered and executed. 

Turner's Hamlet isn't perfect. Though we were rapt for the entire first half -which is really quite something given that it runs for nearly two hours- both my sister and I felt the momentum the actors had gained dissipated during intermission and never fully returned. It made us wish we'd all powered straight through. And I do so wish Claudius had seemed more menacing and Ophelia more likeable.

All that said, it was a theatrical experience of a lifetime, and I remain thrilled that I was here. 

At the gift shop after the curtain closed, the cashier said she'd heard Benedict would be signing autographs outside the Silk Street stage door. My sister and I literally paid and ran, hoofing it to fan line in our shirts and heels. We saw Ciarán Hinds not two feet from us and Anastasia Hille just further than that.

And then the grand master emerged, and I was not six feet from him and I saw his hair and immediately said, "It's Benedict. Just look at that marvelous hair." 

That's all I got but it'll do me.

benedict's hair is just in there

benedict's hair is just in there