NT Hamlet at Stroud cinema

I bought my ticket over 2 months ago, as I knew it was the only way I’d get to see it. And suddenly the day had arrived. Of course I’d read the good, the bad and the ugly reviews but I’m not one of those people who has to believe everything they read. (in fact I usually don’t believe anything I read…)

Now Hamlet and me go back a long way. I studied it twice at school, including for A level, and have seen a number of productions over the many years since then…. I must know most of the lines by heart. I start chuckling before others do, because I know what’s coming. I love knowing what lots of the obscure references mean- I feel totally at home with it. It’s coursing round my bloodstream.

As someone who has been quite open about my own mental health issues, (once I realised what they were- for many years I was told I had viruses…) I’ve always felt that just assuming Hamlet is putting it all on, is a very naive approach- in fact it always seemed to me that the Danish courtiers, the individual characters and state stood for dysfunction and chaos both in personal lives and in politics.

Young Fortinbrass stepping in to sort things out at the end clearly had a political message when the play was first performed: that the Tudor dynasty would put England back on track; a universal message that countless royal families, governments and dictators have told us, ever since….

It’s good to know that nothing ever changes, that it doesn’t matter if it’s Elizabeth I, Fortinbrass, David Cameron, or Jeremy Corbyn, we always get told that we don’t know what’s best for us, but the people in charge do….

The dark fjordian blue vaguely Gustavian set with a blackened twist, the ash/soil/larva liberally scattered over the set in the second half, which curled my toes as Ophelia and Gertrude had to walk bare foot on it (funny how none of the men had to degrade themselves like that…) the ambiguous but vaguely early 20th century to contemporary costumes, created an unstable bleak atmosphere that really got to the heart of play.

The see-saw effect between infantilism and maturity, decision making and sitting on the fence, action and words, was brought out powerfully in what has been perceived by some as a not totally successful production. For me though, it communicated something of the insanity and blanket of darkness that I have always found smothering the script.

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