Sunday, 6 November 2011

Hamlet (Preview), 29th October 2011

Who is in it? Hamlet stars Adeel Akhtar, Hayley Carmichael, James Clyde, Sally Dexter, Callum Dixon, Pip Donaghy, Michael Gould, Adam McNamara, Vinette Robinson, Michael Sheen, Matthew Trevannion,Eileen Walsh and Benedict Wong and is directed by Ian Rickson

Where did you see it? The Young Vic, SE1

Like my last review, Collaborators, this is completely sold out because like Collaborators this features a name so big, so in demand that tickets sold out five months before the preview.

Michael Sheen is wonderful, one of those few actors who can be a movie star yet still feel so right for theatre. Understandably Sheen's been away from the theatre since 2006 when he starred in the stage production of Frost/Nixon (I recently said on twitter that is a credit to Sheen as an actor to portray David Frost is as likeable!) and his return couldn't have been more anticipated.

Sheen is 42, in some ways he is too old to be Hamlet (though many actors have played the part at various ages it is seen as a young man's role) and I can't really compare his Hamlet to any others because I haven't seen them, not even David Tennant's that was on last year! I will say that Sheen has had the misfortune to be cast in one of the oddest interpretation's to hit the stage.

There's no ghost. It is utterly bizarre, even more bizarre than the community centre-esque staging in the Young Vic(and the ridiculous pre-show experience that precedes the play, which I won't spoil) Sheen takes on both Hamlets, disguishing his Prince from his King with a loud, Anthony Hopkins Welsh boom. There's also no chemistry between Hamlet and Ophelia (Vinette Robinson) or Hamlet and Gertrude (Sally Dexter). I can't help but wonder if Sheen wanted to play those parts as well and out of spite refuses to give them any chance to do their roles well. 

This, like Collaborators, is a showcase for it's leading actor(s) and both exposes his talents and also feels a bit of waste of great actor and an adequate supporting cast (the lovely Benedict Wong features but not enough) There is an air with both plays (I hate to compare plays but I did see both within 24 hours) that no effort needed to be made because they would sell out whatever was churned out. This is incredibly patronising to an audience that has still paid money.

Like a fool I would still recommend this, quite simply Sheen is fantastic and he is one of those actors that will do less and less stage work. Catch him if you can, even if this isn't a fine production.

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