Hamlet (Old Vic Livestream): Hermlet?

I came fully prepared to dislike this production — just unconvinced by female Hamlet. But I was wrong! Cush Jumbo was dazzling in the role.

Again, really thankful for an online version giving a wider chance for people to view performances and break the London/city-centric holds on culture. Best of all was the way in which online theatre tech was used to it’s full — as the audience I could choose which camera to cut to throughout the performance or follow the director’s cut — this meant you could ala Father Ted, be far away or close to, on the stage or see the play from different character viewpoints. Really fun and unexpected! Plus still the feeling of real, live theatre as people stood up, left their seats and walked infront of the cameras at points! Excellent accessibility too in the provision of features and lots of fun and creativity being the ‘director’.

We had a ‘how to’ guide into…

Not only was the performance wonderful — it was gripping! Hamlet was still treated as male, though played by a woman, (no idea what I think about that) — but somehow it really worked. Brilliantly contemporary in modernish dress. Very, very well done — even the gravediggers weren’t annoying for once and Hamlet was restored to a young ‘man’ of Denmark.

This Hamlet was cruel — one moment salsa dancing in the loving dark with Ophelia, the next minute pretending not to love at all. In this performance, Ophelia gives out former love tokens from Hamlet whilst naming flowers — a sign of love driven mental breakdown. Additionally, the production really used Ophelia’s love of music to great effect and deepened the loving relationship between brother and sister — Ophelia’s brother really was mad with grief as he seeks to duel with Hamlet to right this wrong. Wonderful too was the relationship between Ophelia’s father and her brother — a real sense of family pride was established as the sibling was sent off into the world. This makes the father’s unfortunate end (stabbed by Hamlet) all the more terrible. Tara Fitzgerald and Adrian Dunbar’s King and Queen were impeccable, very much in love, until their son becomes troubled by ghosts.

Best of all was Adrian Dunbar as the usurper and brother murdering king. I think we were more on tenterhooks waiting for him for utter some infamous Line of Duty Phrase ‘and the wee donkey’,.. The set was wonderful distortion of movable mirrored gold — perfect for skulking, lurking and nefarious deeds. The moment when the King is at prayer and Hamlet considers whether or not to murder him elicited compassion for this potential murderer and turned Hamlet into a suspenseful thriller.

Gravediggers! Not annoying! Waiting for that speech…..

Whereas Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are drafted in to get the party started and end up having to play for their lives. I always like the bit where the parents try to pack Hamlet off to England cos he’ll fit in well there. I guess this play today has much to say to us about mental health, its treatment and conditions, particularly with the use of ‘mad’ and Hamlet’s feigned madness, and how different characters suffer mental breakdowns.

No Fortinbrass hemming in, closer and closer, arriving to find carnage and pretty much everyone dead at the end, but Adrian Dunbar’s King is very even keel and mild right up until the end when he suddenly turns duplicitous and starts poisoning drinks as a distraction during the duel…

Perfectly clear diction — Hamlet even busting some lyrics at times, and bringing the drama and poetry back to Shakespeare….

@Photographs author’s own from Old Vic production of Hamlet (2021)




By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....

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Susan Tailby

Susan Tailby

By Susan Tailby. Appreciator of arts and culture; things I've seen and enjoyed and you might too! Reviews all my own opinion....

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