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The Review - THEATRE by TOM FOOT
Published: 11 June 2009
Penelope Wilton (Gertrude) and Jude Law
Penelope Wilton (Gertrude) and Jude Law
Law under surveillance in Orwellian Hamlet

Wyndhams Theatre

THERE was a faint whiff of haughty distaste as the critics busted through the line of returns-hunters, queuing right the way down Charing Cross Road for this one.

The casting of Jude Law as Hamlet in the latest celebrity-led Shakespeare production sold this three-month run out within days.
Bardicide or not, taking superstars like Law out of their comfort zone is in itself an intriguing spectacle.
I remember the knives being out for actress Sienna Miller when she appeared as Celia in As You Like It at the Wyndhams Theatre in 2005. But she triumphed in adversity and now, four years later on the same stage, her ex-boyfriend appears to have repeated the trick.
Law – famed for his cock-sure characters in polished films like The Talented Mr Ripley and Alfie – appeared vulnerable in the opening scenes.
There was a hint of desperation about him, seeking acceptance as an actor.
But this fear of failure could not be more fitting for the role of Hamlet, the prince who is so famously burdened by the weight of expectation. “O cursed spite that I was ever born to set it right.”
Law comes into his own as angry Hamlet. He is very good at bouncing, leaping and shaking other actors.
When he bellowed “my fate cries out” and charges off after his father’s ghost, it gave me the tingles.
Director Michael Grandage places the play in a timeless castle setting.
There are no machine-guns or mobile phones, but there are jeans and T-shirts to go with the goblets and rapiers.
There were no CCTV cameras either, but it felt like the production was subtly tapping in to the modern-day anxieties about surveillance.
There is an awful lot of snooping in Hamlet. Polonius spies on Hamlet throughout the play, in the end fatally from behind the arras; the prince secretly watches Claudius as he prays for redemption, and during the Mousetrap; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are summoned to monitor Hamlet; Hamlet’s letters to Ophelia are monitored.
Grandage even in his heavily reduced script, chooses to include an often-excised scene where Claudius sends one of his henchmen to France to keep an eye on Laertes.
Short, sharp and still relevant. Law prevails in an Orwellian Hamlet.
Until August 22
0844 482 5120

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