26 October 2015

NT Live: Hamlet

The Barbican's Hamlet with Benedict Cumberbatch has had so much coverage that I will be brief here. And I haven't seen many Hamlets. However, I have posted about all the NT Live productions I've seen recently, so just briefly ...

I thought Cumberbatch was better as Hamlet than any other role I've seen him perform. After losing interest in BBC1's Sherlock, that would probably have been August: Osage County. Before that, Christopher Tietjens in the BBC's version of Parade's End - a stiff, principled character, played appropriately. Cumberbatch's Hamlet, whether by his choice or the director's, was energetic rather than cerebral, and revealed that he can move with feline agility. A lot of the business, and there was plenty, seemed to have Cumberbatch's fan base in mind (female, early teens?) - but do they know who Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra were?

More impressively, Cumberbatch was able to put over some of the best-known lines in English literature with enough freshness to sustain attention and suppress any involuntary desire to join in. If the rest of the cast had been allowed to speak as slowly, it would probably have been a four hour performance, rather than three-ish, but perhaps that's not unusual. On the other hand, some of the supporting cast would be barely adequate at any pace. The eclectic costuming could not fail to go with the Scandi cum vintage country house Elsinore set - such a shame that during the interval it seemed to have been hit by a cruise missile. As discussed here previously, NT Live makes extensive use of close-ups, like movies and the telly, so the scale of the set was not as overwhelming as I can imagine it might have been in the theatre.

In the post about NT Live The Beaux’ Stratagem, I wondered whether transmissions were in 4K definition. This time, a few cinemas are making a feature of their 4K re-screenings on later dates than the real time screening, so I think the answer, at least for the present, must be no, only some recordings.

Hamlet ends at the Barbican on 31 October. NT Live showings continue in November.

No comments:

Post a Comment