Hamlet at the Harold Pinter Theatre
Robert Icke’s Hamlet is theatrical gold with a diamond leading man in Andrew Scott. It is raw, challenging and significant.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. They have lost their king, a bloody war with Norway looms over them and their prince, Hamlet, suffers overwhelming grief.
Icke brings Shakespeare’s classic into the here and now, portraying Denmark as a modern surveillance state. It feels decidedly more natural than many other modern retellings, as if the text were originally conceived this way. No part is forced and, in fact, some scenes are enhanced by the use of cameras and screens.
Hamlet is always very much about its leading man. And with David Tennant, Benedict Cumberbatch and now Andrew Scott all playing the role within the last decade, it has become something of a favourite for young actors attempting a career-defining stage performance. But even with such big footsteps to follow, Icke’s lead does not disappoint.
Scott’s Hamlet is delightfully unhinged and his wonderfully sarcastic attitude makes something of a lovable scamp of the character. The actor delivers the jokes as a mischievous and innocent young boy, making the contrast between these moments and his bouts of anger, depression and pain all the more sorrowful.
The deterioration of the main character’s mental health is powerfully relevant today, just as this issue is being recognised more and more as deserving of focus. And perhaps what makes this production so brutally hard-hitting is Scott’s ability to seem completely and totally natural. He does not play Hamlet with theatrical pomp and exaggeration but with honesty and reality, not as a character but as a person.
While this staging is purely about Scott, the rest of the cast is made up of acting heavyweights. Juliet Stevenson, Angus Wright and David Rintoul are all top-billing performers in their own right and seeing them come together in one show is marvellous. Jessica Brown Findlay deserves a special mention also. As Ophelia, she makes the transition from playful and full of joy to a harrowing chill with such impressive finesse.
Robert Icke’s Hamlet is a must see. Scott’s performance is no doubt the best on the West End this year. This is a beautifully rich tragedy and the perfect introduction to Shakespeare, showing just how funny, tragic and unsparingly emotional his plays can be. Though veteran’s of the Bard’s works will no doubt revel in this updated version.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Hamlet is at the Harold Pinter Theatre from 9th June until 2nd September 2017. Book your tickets here.