Courtesy of Johan Persson

Courtesy of Johan Persson

November 11, 2015

Blue Burdens and Hipster Horatio in Hamlet

Print More

By CATHERINE HWANG

Director Lyndsey Turner’s Hamlet surprised me a bit at the start with Benedict Cumberbatch, our Hamlet, wrapped in a loose brown sweater, sitting on the ground listening to vinyl. This production’s intro (as shown at Cinemapolis) is not the beginning that I am familiar with. While Hamlet broods, someone knocks on the door, and it’s Hamlet (not Bernardo) who shouts, “Who’s there!” — only, instead of his father’s ghost, it’s Horatio (Leo Bill), clad in a button-up and square-rimmed glasses, a knapsack and tattoos. I don’t know if I like the re-arrangement of the script, but as Hamlet and Horatio exchange words, the premise is set regardless and the anachronistic nature of the outfits tickles my fancy.

Courtesy of Johan Persson

Courtesy of Johan Persson

It becomes clear rather rapidly that Cumberbatch plays an incredible Hamlet — charismatic, unflinching and dynamic, he prances around the stage with limber movements. Cumberbatch performs relentlessly, giving flesh to instances in the production that could have been over-the-top, like when he’s dressed in a red soldier’s suit, beating the drum of fabricated insanity.

Despite this boldness and strength, Cumberbatch’s Hamlet is less insane about getting revenge than about having to actually do it. The obvious indication is the outfits, which are a fantastic, childish mess. Training pants and tailcoats smeared with ‘KING’ — a mismatch of this and that — are the physical representation of Hamlet’s contradictory character in a way: He wants revenge but doesn’t want to kill; he kills despite his reservations but doesn’t display much remorse; he wants to be kind to his mother but ruthlessly harps at her. Torn between filially becoming a murderer for revenge to fulfill his responsibilities as a son and his intellectual rejection of becoming a murderer, Cumberbatch’s Hamlet is struggling to grow up and take on a ‘duty.’

The production seemed to this point. When Hamlet crawls into his play castle as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern walk in, one can see a jarring sense of lost childhood, because all ‘play’ is falsified and instead perceived as insanity. Hamlet’s childhood home has devolved to a prison of responsibility and horror, and his schoolboy friends work against him. The patchwork of traits and contradictions in Hamlet undoubtedly makes him stand out as the rest of the cast is more constant in nature, though this could arguably speak to a flatter supporting cast. But Hamlet the man has always been a behemoth as a character.

What’s really fantastic is how the progression of the play is reflected in a stunning and aesthetically pleasing set. The deep blue indigo hues that drown the stage, the endless flowers and the decadently beautiful banquet table form an extraordinarily lovely set. There’s an unspeakable momentum expressed in the set of the play, whether it’s the music building the tension, the gorgeous (and eerie) use of large, projected shadows emphasizing movement and solitude or the visual deterioration of the castle and the people in it. Once mighty, the castle ends completely drowned in cracks and ashes and the cast that had started in white are completely dressed in black, with the exception of Hamlet himself who began in black and ends in white.

It is certainly dramatic in a modern way, the visual impact rendering the production cinematic in a way, which critics have cried out about. Settled in front of the screen, I did get the notion that the show came out particularly well on camera for a theatre production — on the screen, one can see the subtle facial changes, details such as Ophelia’s photographs, and the full breadth of the blasting ashes at the end of Act I. The camera’s focus makes the live screening feel more vibrant because the details shine — these probably would not be so easily perceived in person at the Royal National Theatre in London and some question whether the production is truly proper theatre.

Regardless, I found the production to be beautiful in its contemporary elements and its blue glory. The fresh modernity brought a dynamism and intensity I didn’t expect, but I loved it all the same (especially Horatio’s new hipster look). Hamlet’s childishness and pain are strangely easy to empathize with, though the audience isn’t quite in the same dilemma of killing anyone for revenge. Immediately, Hamlet sucks the audience into a crumbling world of indigo-blue through the stage’s presence and the cast’s (especially Cumberbatch’s) lively presentation. It’s a whimsical and fantastic piece to see, with breath-taking visuals and a sheer momentum that gives the viewer a taste of insanity.

20 thoughts on “Blue Burdens and Hipster Horatio in Hamlet

  1. Pingback: Royal Blue Flower Arrangements | news - 24hr flower delivery

  2. Undeniably believe that that you stated. Your favourite justification seemed to be on the internet the easiest thing to take into accout of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed even as other people think about concerns that they just don’t know about. You controlled to hit the nail upon the highest as well as defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , other folks can take a signal. Will probably be back to gt more. Thanks

  3. Hey would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re working with? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a tough time deciding between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your design and style seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Sorry for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

  4. Howdy! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I most certainly will forward this information to him. Fairly certain he’ll have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your webpage? My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my users would genuinely benefit from a lot of the information you present here. Please let me know if this ok with you. Many thanks!

  6. You do this by literally unscrewing one particular link, you cannot just get a smaller piece to
    fix the hole, you require a totl piece no matter if it is 1m,
    1.5m 2m high ( common sizes ) Get the replacement piece annd re-thread onee particular finish onto the
    current fence, then pull the fence tight.

  7. I think this is one of the most important info for me. And i am glad reading your article. But wanna remark on some general things, The website style is ideal, the articles is really excellent : D. Good job, cheers

  8. Pretty element of content. I just stumbled upon your site and in accession capital to say that I get in fact loved account your weblog posts. Anyway I will be subscribing for your feeds and even I fulfillment you get entry to persistently rapidly.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *