HAMLET : NATIONAL THEATRE LIVE

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4 stars
“What a piece of work is a man?”

The state of Denmark may be rotten, but seldom has it looked so opulent, or has its story been so overwhelming.
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This National Theatre Live production of Shakespeare's longest tale also manages the near impossible, making it's 200 minute runtime (count 'em, 200!) pass in the relative blink of an eye. OK, a long blink, but such is Benedict Cumberbatch's riveting interpretation of theatre's nuttiest prince that you'll be marvelling at the curtain call before you know it.

For the uninitiated, here is the story of a young man whose crown is usurped when his uncle kills his father, then marries his mother and installs himself as King of Denmark. In a fit of vengeful rage, poor Prince Hamlet knocks off his lover's father by mistake and plunges into depression so deep that insanity becomes his new best friend. Before you can say 'to be or not to be', the body count has tipped the scales of decency and makes the Red Wedding look like a family picnic. Alas poor Hamlet.

In all regards, this production of Hamlet is a roaring success. Given an anachronistic period makeover which places events somewhere between 1850 and 1940, maybe, it allows director Lindsey Turner to run amok with a glorious stage that vividly captures the madness of a country, a house and a man at war with its/himself. Stunning in this context may well be a cliché but one that perfectly captures the experience.

As Hamlet's uncle Claudius, Cirian Hinds (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy) growls up a royal storm while a heavily tattooed Horatio (Leo Bell – Mr Turner) and the grizzled presence of Karl Johnson as the ghost of King Hamlet past are terrific in support. The show, as does the play, naturally belongs to Hamlet himself and Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) doesn't miss a beat. He is extraordinary, cementing his reputation as one of the must-see actors of his generation.

Shakespeare's concerns around the evils of political manipulation and the despair of man are, if anything, now more relevant than ever. Turner’s searing production of Hamlet is a winning combination of talent that seizes your imagination while giving a fresh, vital reason for (re-)watching this timeless work.

// COLIN FRASER

Previewed at Event Cinemas, George St, Sydney on 7 October 2015
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STARRING
Benedict Cumberbatch
Ciarin Hinds
Leo Bill
Karl Johnson

DIRECTOR
Lindsey Turner

WRITER
William Shakespeare

COUNTRY
UK

CLASSIFICATION
CTC

RUNTIME
200 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
November 7, 2015
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National Theatre Live: Hamlet (2015) on IMDb
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