Friday, September 18, 2015

Benedict Cumberbatch's Hamlet is Elegant yet Manically Energetic and Star Stunningly Brilliant!

We are all coal dust in the end, so we may as well enjoy life before it all goes to Hell and we kick the bucket full of coal. If there's any way y'all can catch female Director Lyndsey Turner's production of Hamlet at The Barbican, or soon to be in movie theaters world wide, do so!

Simply put, Benedict Cumberbatch is the Mick Jagger of actors. His indefatigable portrayal of Hamlet is magnanimously manic, amiable, delightfully funny with dignity, yet mercurial, morose and cruel. His strong diction is clear and as an added perk, the sonorous tonal quality of his voice is a God given gift. He is hard working, beautifully educated and infinitely experienced in theatre, but here's the difference that separates the 95% famous from the 5% infamous: Benedict Cumberbatch absolutely loves being up on that stage and adores his audience, just as Mick Jagger does, and this unspoken, unwritten charismatic quality, coupled with his immense talent, is the sugar fondant icing on the cake. It's the genius of the draw. It's the "Sprezzatura" we are all chasing in our own lives, right in front of us, on stage. We, the audience, are drawn in to Cumberbatch's natural ease of manner in and of the mere moment, we are drawn into his tornado of energy. Drawn into his soul he slams on the stage floor, in front of us, as the noble yet tortured Hamlet.

The second character in this Herculean production of Hamlet, is the old 'Grand Dame' mansion of a set. This antiquated, mildew colored green, generational "Plantation House" of Hamlet's family, stands silent and grandiose, and like a ghost, encompasses the entire stage and permeates the story throughout the play, symbolizing the external and internal disintegration of this outdated monarchical system, society and family.

The famous cast includes the wise and distinguished Karl Johnson, as the dignified ghost of Hamlet's Father, who, covered in grave dust, achingly warns young Hamlet of the sheer evil found in some families.

The commanding Ciaran Hinds is the former King's sociopathic, stern brother, Claudius, who has no conscience, and seeks out revenge at any cost, including an eternal existence in Hell.

Anastasia Hille pleasantly pleases us as a regal and gorgeous Gertrude, quaffed and elegant in 'Grace Kelly' fashion, just trying to survive in a man's world.

Jim Norton plays Polonius as the kindly Professor type, with love and hope for his daughter, and the unwavering, however unfortunate loyalty to the office of 'King'.

Surprising Sian Brooke as Ophelia was a treat to watch. She played Ophelia first as extremely virginal and timid, stayed and even a bit hard to hear at times. However, once driven mad, Ophelia's ticks and twerks were visible and audible as crazier than a rat in the out house. Great!!

Leo Bill as Horatio although nicely acted and animated, was very hard to hear and hard to understand, as he stood slouching over with his backpack, and was always standing askew to the audience.

Rudi Dharmalingam was delightful to watch on stage as a happy Guildenstern, and I hope we may be seeing more of this young, promising actor lit up with a wonderful stage presence.

Lastly but not least, Kobna Holbrook-Smith was a strong physical and metaphysical force as Laertes. Wow!

The costumes were partly period, sometimes modern hoodie, but always the actors wearing the clothes, never visa versa.

The melancholy, yet classic Cole Porter music enlightened and lightened the mood of the scenes, and the motion and choreography of the actors' movement was fluid and lovely, although the action on stage was mostly skewed stage right with its balcony and staircase.

The Dining Room table and chandelier were some of the favorite props, gorgeous in a decaying 'Land of the Landed Gentry' kind-of way, with dead animal 12 point deer antlers strewn all over the table top, and the fire of lit candles lining it's length. How else would any declining family dinner be complete without at least one family member vaulting themselves onto the top of the table, standing tall and pontificating during dinner.

The entire 3+ hour production went by in a flash. Although the Acts were very nicely timed, the one criticism many women have is the "only 20 minute intermission." A bit of an anxious rush for we girls. Not even time for a cocktail.

So, before we are all to be turned into coal dust, climb over the coal mounds, into Hamlet's world, where you can be very comfortably in your seat, and be entertained underneath and around the stars, in the grand style of thrilling live theatre, (or live streamed theatre), the stuff super stars are made of, from coal dust.

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