Review of 'Hamlet'

Benedict Cumberbatch


Having sold out in minutes Benedict Cumberbatch makes an appearance as Hamlet on the National Theatre stage in the Barbican. We were a bit unfortunate in not being able to get tickets at the time and did not fancy queuing in the morning for day tickets so watching the play live in the cinema seemed like a good option and, as it turns out, it was. We are able to see the nuances of the performance that you would doubtless miss when in the theatre itself - Close ups on the performers to really see the emotion involved…

The screening started with a bit of advertising for the National Theatre which was fine by me as well as a brief excerpt from a recent special on the South Bank Show (on Sky Arts television) where Cumberbatch discusses the role and his performance. I have to say we had previously seen this show in it's entirety and it certainly helped me in appreciating the play a great deal more. I never studied Hamlet in school so I was not really all that familiar with it so to have this overview made the experience better for me.

In case there are readers out there who are not familiar with the story, Hamlet (Benedict Cumberbatch) is the prince of Denmark. A short time after his father's death, his mother Gertrude (Anastasia Hille) has married Hamlet's uncle Claudius (Ciarán Hinds). Hamlet is not all that happy at this seeming insensitivity to his father's memory and makes his feelings know. Hamlet later learns from the ghost of his dead father that he was, in fact, murdered by Claudius He goes a bit mad for a bit then ends up accidentally murdering one of the palace staff who happens to be the father of his girlfriend, Ophelia (Sian Brooke). Using this an as an excuse to rid himself of Hamlet who could threaten his position, Claudius exiles Hamlet to England. But, before Hamlet can make it there the ship is boarded by pirates and he returns to Denmark to confront Claudius. Things do not end well…for anyone.

The staging is absolutely incredible set in the interior of a palace throughout with the second half having the stage covered in what appears to be mounds of earth. The actors are dressed in contemporary clothes (at one point Cumberbatch wears a long dress jacket with the word “King” painted on the back) with many wearing jeans and sneakers. This all works and does give the play a much more relaxed and simpler feel. The emotions are drawn into sharp focus with all actors putting, it seems, their entire selves into the show. At one point we see a close up of Gertrude with tears and mucus dripping from her face so enraptured is she in what is being said and in such despair. Amazing.

So, Cumberbatch. I really thought he did a magnificent job. Very believable and extremely emotive. He has certainly given a lot to this role. I was really drawn into the story because of his wonderful performance. Very powerful and tremendously moving.

All in all, a great evening that just flew by despite our fear at it's three hour running time. I was pleased to have been able to follow the story quite well even with Shakespeare's language though I think this is large part to the actors and the production itself.

Highly recommended.

Rating: “I have absolutely no complaints”

Review Date: 2015-10-22

Vue Shepherd's Bush

Location: London (England)

Address: West 12 Shopping and Leisure Centre Shepherds Bush Green London W12 8PP

Public Transport: TUBE Shepherd's Bush NRLOGO Shepherds Bush

Telephone: +44 (0) 8712 240 240


Located in the back of the W12 Shopping Centre on the top floor, this is a poorer cousin to the newer Vue cinema located across the road in the Westfield Shopping Centre. It still boasts a Ben & Jerry's and is often much less busier than the Westfield location. The cinemas are often not very busy but quite clean.