12 May 2013

Hamlet 2009 (Doran)


Hamlet 2009 (Doran)
  • Director: Gregory Doran
  • Based on book: by Shakespeare
  • Cast: David Tennant, Patrick Stewart, Penny Downie, Oliver Ford Davies, Mariah Gale, Edward Bennett, Peter De Jersey, Sam Alexander, John Woodvine
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • David Tennant – Harry Potter, Dr. Who
    • Patrick Stewart – Hamlet (BBC), Star Trek, X-Men
    • Penny Downie – The Girl in the Café
    • Oliver Ford Davies – Sense and Sensibility, Star Wars, Her Majesty Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Dalloway
    • John Woodvine – An American Werewolf in London
  • Seen: First time: a couple of years ago. Now: February 17, 2013

  
One thing that noted scholar Harold Bloom is right about is that every actor does Hamlet differently. There could hardly be more difference between David Tennant’s performance and the stodgy Laurence Olivier, the earnest Mel Gibson, or the sullen, broody Ethan Hawke.
David Tennant’s Hamlet is frenzied, loony, goofy. And completely convincing. This scrawny Hamlet in jeans, tennis shoes (or barefoot) and ugly (but funny) orange T-shirt with skeleton ribs printed on it is manic and suffering. A brilliant achievement.
The time is now. The place is a hall of mirrors under surveillance cameras. Dramatic. Creepy. Atmospheric.
The rest of the cast? Mixed results. Polonius and Laertes (Davies and Bennett) do their jobs, nothing remarkable. Patrick Stewart, again playing Claudius, is a bit of a problem. He’s an excellent actor, of course, but I can’t quite figure out what he’s doing with Claudius.  His villainy is too sneaky, his remorse not convincing enough. But probably (I especially think so after watching the interview in the DVD special feature) Stewart is deliberately and rightly making Claudius a paradox, but it doesn’t quite succeed.
Horatio is a thankless role, maybe the most personality challenged figure in Shakespeare, but De Jersey does well. Horatio is likeable and supportive and De Jersey makes him so.
Ophelia is well done by Mariah Gale.  A bit too wide-eyed for my tastes and more could have been done with the “O what a noble mind” soliloquy but her interpretation of mad Ophelia is very moving.
Penny Downie is the best Gertrude so far. It’s the closet scene that matters and this Gertrude is a bit too weepy and not angry enough but she is at least angry and authoritative – she is Queen and a mother, after all – towards Hamlet at times, which is more than can be said of the other Gertrudes I’ve seen.
Not quite a perfect production then. But close enough. Very powerful, very gripping.

9 ½ * of 10.

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