Hamlet (Donmar at the Wyndhams, 27th June 2009)

The reason, I wanted to blog was because I wanted to respond in writing to things I’d seen or read or experienced. The intention was never to write reviews like those found in newspapers, but to comment on what I had thought about while watching, reading or viewing. When I walked out of the Jude Law Hamlet, I thought the only way I can respond in Miching Malicho is to compare to David Tennant’s portrayal of Hamlet, because all I kept thinking was that’s the way the RSC did it and they made more out of that line etc. Then I thought that I needed to consider this production on its own merits, because it wasn’t Greg Doran’s production, and it was trying to do something different. I had to remember I’d seen the Doran production five times, so was familiar with much of the blocking etc. Indeed, I enjoy seeing several versions of the same play in a short period of time, and I find this very rewarding, but at times, watching this Hamlet, it felt like the creative team had seen other versions and thought we can’t do that, we’ll have to stay safe.

Most of the characters wore black, so if felt that they were still in mourning, it didn’t make Hamlet’s dress and behaviours seem odd. Indeed, it felt like many of the characters wanted to be Hamlet. For example, when Laertes (Alex Waldmann) returns from France he isn’t full of anger, but rather shocked at the death of his father. It, therefore, doesn’t take much for Claudius to disarm him. Ophelia (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) tended to be static in her mad scenes. There might have been a reason for this, but it wasn’t that obvious to me. There was a lot of just passing by and noticing someone on stage. For example, this happens when Gertrude enters to convey the news that Ophelia has drowned. Instead of having motivated himself to kill Claudio in his ‘witching time of night’ speech, it felt like Hamlet was just about to get himself a cup of cocoa and stumbles on Claudius praying rather than seeking him out.

I felt that some of the other aspects of the production could have been thought through more. Gertrude (Penelope Wilton) drinks the poison as if she just thinks it is a drink. The players dress in white, but why are they still hanging round court when Claudius (Kevin R McNally) has shouted for lights with such force. I’m not sure they would still be hanging round Hamlet when things have gone so wrong for them. The King’s wassails are a little simper, and I didn’t get a sense of the ‘bloated king’ having a good time. Another interesting aspect, but rather curious was the staging of the bedchamber scene. The audience’s viewpoint was from Polinius’s (Ron Hill) point of view and we are not clear what is going on as our view is blurred. We see Polonius killed from our side of a white sheet which ends up shrouding Polonius. It was a nice idea, but I couldn’t really work out why do this. There was no sense that as an audience we were watching the rest of the events through Polonius’ eyes or meant to feel sympathy for Polonius.

There’s so nice touches such as ‘To be or not to be’ in the snow. Generally, Jude Law spoke his soliloquies to the audience with such force and anger. He is sensitive to Ophelia cupping her face in his hands in the nunnery scene, and there is one humorous moment when he moves Claudius and Gertrude’s thrones apart before ‘The Mousetrap’. I felt this was Law’s production. He was a very good Hamlet, and rather dominated with his angry young man. Though lacking in the humour of Tennant’s performance, it was a good performance overall.

Reviews and Previews

Guardian Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
Ind o S- review of Jude Law Hamlet
Independent article on Hamlet
BBC NEWS Programmes Newsnight Newsnight R…
Observer Hamlet review
Spectator Review of Hamlet
Independent Review of Jude Law’s Hamlet
FT Jude Law Hamlet
The Stage / News / Wilton and Eyre to join Gran…
Candian review of Hamlet
Talking to Penelope Wilton (Gertrude) – Times O…
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
London Theatre’s Review of the Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law on Hamlet Evening Standard
Playbill News: Jude Law Is Hamlet, Beginning Ma…
Times Review of Jude Law Hamlet
Evening Standard review of Hamlet
Photos of Jude Law Hamlet
The Guardian review of the reviews of Jude Law Hamlet
Jude Law and Michael Grandage discuss Hamlet at…
Sunday Time review of Jude Law Hamlet
Theatre preview: Hamlet, London Stage The G…
Hamlet, at Wyndham’s Theatre – review
Hamlet Donamar – Interview with Ophelia
Official London, Jude Law Hamlet
What’s On Stage – Review of Hamlet
The Mail compares critics
Hamlet – Law/Tennant (Times)
Kevin Mcnally as Claudius
Stage Review of Hamlet

A Doll's House (Donmar, 20th June 2009)

In the intimate space of the Donmar, A Doll’s House felt so much like a proscenium arch play. What I mean by this is that, as the audience, we are not invited into the world of the play. It is a play about secrets that happen behind closed doors, and I felt that I was peeping behind those closed doors, hidden from those performing. In A Doll’s House, ‘reputation’ is so important, that having a public face turns the husband, in this case, Thomas (Toby Stephens), into such a monster. Thomas’s fury, at the news that Nora (Gillian Anderson) has committed fraud, is terrifying, as well as so menacing and is so in keeping with the personality we’ve seen bubbling up through the production. Even more shocking is the hypocrisy Thomas displays as he suddenly changes moods and tries to treat his wife like a small fragile child- the doll in the doll’s house.

In this version of A Doll’s House the family are moving in so there are packing cases and empty shelves. The marriage is empty, the emotions and connections still hidden away like the objects in those packing cases. Even before Kelman (Christopher Eccleston) explodes into the household, things are not well before this. Kelman is only the catalyst that moves the inevitable closer. I didn’t feel that Kelman is disrupting domestic bliss, but a world that is cold and communication between a married couple just doesn’t exist. Nora says one thing and Thomas just doesn’t understand, even when it is so simple as putting a Christmas decoration on a tree. Gillian Anderson’s Nora was so controlled, her emotions work on different levels, but she is so adept at expressing that she is trying to conceal these and showing all. There are no confessions or soliloquies to draw an audience, we watch what she feels in her face, her trembling body and I felt the audiences feels her fear of rejection.

Even without audience interaction, the play reminded me so much of The Winter’s Tale, especially the Old Vic production. The friend, Christina (Tara Fitzgerald) thinking she will do the right thing, in this case letting Thomas find the letter, could be compared to Paulina’s act of giving Leontes the baby, believing absolutely that Leontes seeing the baby will bring him to his senses. Both women just don’t account for the deep routed pride that makes these men reject their wives and puts their honour above any rational thinking.

It is at the moment, Nora understands the truth about her husband and how he responds no longer frightens her and she can leave the one room stage set. I felt once witnessing that rejection, she no longer feared it.

When Nora walks off the stage at the end of the Donmar production, in just her day dress and coat, I was waiting…….. anticipating the door slamming shut. There is silence in the auditorium as the audience waits and there it is… probably the second most famous stage direction in drama… ‘The heavy sound of a door being slammed is heard from below’.*

* Oxford UP translation

Reviews and Previews

A Doll’s House, Donmar, London
The Observer,…

A Doll’s House The Official London Theatre Guide
FT.com / UK – A timely take on political hypocrisy
A Doll’s House, at the Donmar Warehouse – revie…
A Doll’s House at the Donmar Warehouse, WC2 – T…
A Doll’s House – A Doll’s House – Review – What…
The Stage / Reviews / A Doll’s House
A Doll’s House, Donmar Warehouse, London – Revi…
The Stage / News / Stephens and Eccleston join …
A Doll’s House: Another house, another scandal …
Theatre review: A Doll’s House / Donmar Warehou…
Full cast joins Anderson in Doll’s House The …

Who is Hamlet

I couldn’t help making another Doctor Who and Hamlet connection when I saw the images of Jude Law performing ‘To be or not to be’ in the snow and thinking of those images of David Tennant as the Doctor’s apparent last moments staggering through the snow.

Twelfth Night (The Donmar in the West End, Saturday 14th February 2009)

It was Valentine’s day when we went to see Twelfth Night at the Wyndham’s Theatre, and we’d spent the day in London, which had been decked out with red hearts, so it was a very appropriate day to go and watch a love story. Though Twelfth Night explores different relationships and different forms of love.

So Orsino is in love with Olivia or so he thinks, but he is more in love with the idea of being in love. Olivia is in mourning and at first is refusing to fall in love… until she meets Viola dressed as a boy (Cesario) and falls in love with Cesario. Then Sir Toby sets Sir Andrew up to think that Olivia will marry him and Malvolio is duped into thinking Olivia is in love with him. Sir Toby falls in love with Maria and we think that Antonio, the sailor, may have a thing about Sebastian and .. yes it is all complex and muddled and this is why Twelfth Night is one of Shakespeare’s mature comedies.

The stage floor is like the deck of the ship and the nautical theme runs throughout the production and not just in the shipwreck scene. We are always reminded that we are by the sea, and we hear the seagulls flying above and the lapping of the sea at points, The overhearing scene is on a beach and Sir Toby, Maria and Sir Andrew observe Malvolio from behind a windbreak. Viola and and Sebastian wear sailor attire and when Viola is shipwrecked she wears a stunning green dress reminiscent of the sea with the suggestion of a mermaid’s tail.

The play starts as a dark play. We are in a world where siblings have died and characters are in mourning, but the play lightens up and this was reflected in this production in several ways. Olivia changed from her black mourning suite into a very elegant light beige outfit and as the play progressed sunlight started to flicker through the shutters until these were opened up and in the end moved to reveal a blue background.

The strom starts the production and there is a flash of light as Orsino enters through the curtain front of stage. The background storm clearly reflecting Orsino’s mood.

Victoria Hamilton played Cesario very naturally and didn’t act masculinity as Imogen Stubbs does in the Trevor Nunn film version. There are real tears when she speaks the ‘patience on a monument’ speech. She is clearly uncomfortable delivering Orsino’s speech to Viola because these are not her words.

Malvolio is not a clown. It is because he is so serious that he is funny and that we find ourselves caught out laughing at a character that is actually treated very badly at the end of the play. Derek Jacobi’s timing was wonderful. He appeared as if he would never rush anywhere and when he dresses in his yellow stockings, he does it in such a way that it isn’t over the top, but just so out of character.

Samantha Spiro was fantastic as Maria and worked with the lines in such away she made their meaning very clear and we could laugh at jokes that may have become obscure through the years.

Orsino proposes to Viola as she is still dressed as a boy and Orsino still confuses Viola and Sebastian at the end of the play. Same sex desire is not overplayed but it is clearly an important element of this production and we are left to wonder what happens to certain characters. Did Orsino really fall in love with Cesario? Did Antonio love Sebastian? As the happy couples leave the stage together, other characters leave alone and we realise that even though there is a happy ending all is not necessarily well in Illyria.

Reviews and Previews

David Tennant’s excuse was a bad back but why d…
BBC NEWS Entertainment Tennant’s Shakespear…
The Stage / News / Donmar leads the way with 13…
Michael Billington: The Oliviers have snubbed H…
Brief Encounter With … Ron Cook What’s on Sta…
The Oxonian Review » Star-Crossed
Donmar & La Cage Lead Olivier Nomination Tallie…
Twelfth Night, Wyndham’s, WC2 – the Sunday Time…
La Cage aux Folles steals the spotlight at thea…
Critics honour Donmar Warehouse The Official …
Twelfth Night, Donmar, London
Simply Cindere…

Lots of actors in the running for an Olivier, b…
Drag race for the Olivier awards News
Tennant shares top actor prize – Scotsman.com News
I’ll never be ready for Christmas – so bring it…
The Stage / Reviews / Twelfth Night
CBBC Newsround TV/Film Tennant scoops award…
David scoops Critics’ Circle Hamlet award – Daily Express
Photos: Donmar Turns Out in Force at Critics Aw…
Derek Jacobi : Olivier, Burton and me – Telegraph
A Bow to Kenneth Branagh -Times Online
Donmar & La Cage Lead Olivier Nomination Tallie…
David Tennant misses out on Olivier Awards nomi…
People: Tennant misses out on Olivier Award N…
David Tennant scoops top theatre award – The Da…
Tennant’s Hamlet misses out on Olivier award – …
Critics hail Tennant for part-time Hamlet News
BBC NEWS Entertainment Arts & Culture Gam…
David Tennant excluded from voting for Laurence…
Twelfth Night The Official London Theatre Guide
Twelfth Night at the Donmar at Wyndhams – revie…
David Tennant shares Critics’ Circle award with…
Playbill News: August, La Cage, Tennant and Mor…
David Tennant misses out on Olivier award nomin…
First Night: Twelfth Night, Wyndham’s Theatre, …