I might as well get in with this quick before the reviews of Hamlet at the RSC come out and everyone starts talking about staging and interpretation and all that. I propose to stick with what’s really important. Namely, the cheap (or rather, not so cheap) thrills available for those lucky enough to get their mitts on a ticket.
First off, let me apologise profusely for not providing photographic tummy proof. Immediately before the performance started there was the usual sonorous announcement about turning off mobile phones, followed by a severe warning against taking photographs or filming. (Not that I would, anyway – after all, I was raised in the jungle by Culture Vultures.) In addition, I’d had an email from the RSC just a few days earlier, rather snitty in tone, advising that actors would only be signing official RSC programmes and merchandise and that anyone selling their tickets on Ebay would be hung, drawn and quartered – or words to that effect. You’ll just have to take my word for it.
Anyway, it’s a modern dress production, and all the better for it. In addition, Tennant’s delivery is so naturalistic and contemporary, the meaning of what he says is absolutely crystal clear for about 90 per cent of the play. There were moment when I felt he substituted animation for intensity, but overall I thought it was a great performance. He managed to make most of the jokes genuinely funny! No small achievement with Shakespeare. Interestingly, the big soliloquys went for almost nothing, being delivered without the huge “air quotes” they normally get, and woven seamlessly into the rest of the text. I thought this was a good thing but I’ll bet there are plenty of theatre buffs who’ll feel cheated.
Now – to the tummy. In jeans, t-shirt and bare feet, Tennant makes a believable 30 year old. He’s very thin so the jeans slip down a little and the t-shirt flaps around, as he dashes around the darkly mirrored stage. When it first appeared, there was an audible gasp from the front row ladies (who also leapt to their feet and screamed at the end when Tennant took his bow – I feared they might throw their undies … no warnings against that before the play started). By the end, I think we all felt we’d had our money’s worth – even those who’d paid squillions on Ebay, probably.
The production – Out of 10, I’d give it an easy 11.
The tummy? Ditto. Flat, well-muscled, pale as befits a Dane. He wears jeans very well. (Of course, all of this did nothing for me beyond the purely aesthetic – for reasons I’ll be explaining soon. Yes, it’s another theory. I’m afraid.)