Hamlet in Jack Bauer-land

HamletWe returned to the Music Box Theater to see an encore of Nicholas Hynter’s 2010 Hamlet at the National Theatre.

First of all, Rory Kinnear may be the finest Hamlet I have ever seen. His clear love of the language and linguistic devices arises from his clear conception of the character and the situation. “I am alone now” etc was simply thrilling, one of many such moments.

Unfortunately the supporting cast was second rate, with the exception of Patrick Malahide as Claudius and James Laurenson wonderfully double cast at Old Hamlet’s Ghost and the Player King. These two actors, along with Mr. Kinnear, saw and used the glorious language as wonderful expressions of characters who love and employ language to their particular ends. The others saw the words as archaic obstacles to their endless emoting.

Mr. Hynter’s production latched onto the world of secrecy, spying, and dissembling in 17th century monarchical London as the environment for the action. Updated to the present, the play became Hamlet – in- Jack  Bauer-land of not 24 hours, but 4 hours length.

Hynter’s Gertrude actually sees her husband’s ghost in her room with her son and, consequently repents and becomes young Hamlet’s ally. The double casting of Polonius and the Gravedigger results in Polonius literally digging his own grave.

The sleek settings and lighting by Vicki Mortimer and Jon Clark literally come apart as the fraudulent kingdom unravels, leaving backstage tricks visible and work lights illuminating the final actions.

A quibbling question: Do ghosts cast shadows? Mr. Hynter’s Ghost did, just after the sentries reported the ghost to have no substance!


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