Friday, 14 October 2011

Hamlet: Derek Jacobi and Patrick Stewart BBC version

I didn't think there could be a worse version than that of Mel Gibson. I was wrong.
For one thing, this is the FULL version of the play, running at 212 minutes. However whilst this isn't a problem with the Globe productions or even the Kenneth Brannagh version which captured my interest, this production simply bored me. The props and scenery were minimal, and if you're going with that style, then you need to have really convincing performances from every single actor.
Whilst I adore Patrick Stewart, his Claudius was unmemorable, never really convincing me he was a scheming villain who killed his brother. There seemed no deep emotional involvement. Plus, he looked really weird with hair.
Horatio seemed to completely fade into the background, merely a nothing character there to prompt Hamlet, despite his having some of the deepest and most cutting lines in the play. I can't even remember what he looked like.
Gertrude did a lot of heavy breathing in a very low cut dress, this was pretty much all that stuck with me after she had died.
Now, Derek Jacobi. Perhaps I would have overlooked all these other small issues if the Hamlet had been captivating. Every... Single.... Word.... Seemed... to.... have... a... dramatic... pause. A wild flourish of arms or a drawn out siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh. It was very overacted to the point of hilarity. He also decided to stare into the camera for each soliloquy, which was quite disturbing as I was sat about a foot from the screen. Every so often I would turn back from the conversation and see a strange man staring at me intently.
My primary complaint with Jacobi however was his delivery of the To be or not to be soliloquy. This is one of the most famous pieces of literature in the English language. And I was bored. I didn't care whether Hamlet decided to be a good little prince or to throw himself from the battlements. And therein lies the issue, I love Hamlet, I love the deep introspection, the mercurial emotions, the hate, love, lust, anger and revenge that sits at the heart of the play, but if the actors aren't utterly believable then it becomes a 212 minute dirge.

Two points of mention; Laertes and Polonius were amazing, Polonius balancing the thin line between ridicule and dislike from the audience but appearing a genuine, brown-nosing drip, whilst Laertes anger added some much needed authenticity to the final acts which otherwise seemed to crawl along at a snails pace.

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