TV Review: Hamlet, RSC

“What are thou that usurp’st this time of night”
 

The recent RSC production of Hamlet, starring David Tennant, has been filmed and was broadcast on BBC2 on Boxing Day afternoon, a curious piece of scheduling but thanks to the beauty of iPlayer, I was able to watch it as my leisure this evening. Rather than filming the play as it was performed on stage, the original cast deliver this modern-dress and modern-day adaption on location which gives it a much more filmic feel, especially with some of the camera tricks used, such as observing the action from the CCTV cameras.

David Tennant really is rather good here. His Hamlet is both wiry and wired, constantly moving and shifting, mimicking those around him with a quick wit but all-the-while suffused with a precipitous edge. The sense of danger is never far from this often bare-footed prince, but in my limited Hamlet experience, I did miss a little of the brooding intensity that Jude Law brought to the role. Equally strong though was Patrick Stewart’s coldly calculating Claudius. From his opening scene, there is no doubt that he has Hamlet’s cards marked and employs a chilling restraint throughout which was far scarier than any amount of raging. And Oliver Ford Davies’ Polonius was also good value for money, flirting between the doddery old dear of the court and the canny politician keeping himself in favour.

As for watching a play like this on screen, for the most part it was fine. I liked the filmic touches, Hamlet often spoke into a camcorder and the aforementioned CCTV shots, and I think I would have liked a bit more of this inventiveness in the filming, as when these tricks weren’t employed, the action was rather static and one felt very much as if one were just watching the play. I did however love the opportunity to witness the acting up close. So much is done with facial expressions and one doesn’t miss a single thing here, something that cannot be said if you’re in Row J of the circle somewhere. So all in all, a great opportunity to see something special, albeit perhaps not on Boxing Day!

Hamlet is now available to watch or download from the BBC iPlayer for the next seven days.

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