Hamlet – National Theatre Live

On Thursday evening I managed to finish work in Fife at 5pm and make it in time to be sat in the theatre for 7 all ready to watch Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet. Nope, I hadn’t mastered the art of time travel or had I sold my soul to the devil to gain a couple of much sought after tickets to see the Shakespeare drama in London’s Barbican theatre.  What I had was 2 tickets to see National Theatre Live broadcast Hamlet in the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy.

1400 screens in 25 different countries meant the play was being shown to over 225,000 people around the world. No mean feat.

I love the theatre and have done so since I played Rosalia in West Side Story when I was 16 years old. (also in the same production Dougray Scott played Bernardo and Tony was played by Michael Nardone – sorry, just had to let those names drop and tell you my biggest claim to fame ;p)). I would rather go to the theatre than the cinema any day of the week. I enjoy thinking about all the different aspects of the show – the stage production, the set design, how the actors get on back stage, the make up artist, the writer – just everything about it. Therefore, when my mum made the suggestion of going to see Hamlet in Kirkcaldy, I was never going to refuse.

Mum and I sat in a full house amidst students, OAPS and everyone else in between, In other words a very mixed bunch. Prior to the play starting, a clip showed Benedict Cumberbatch visit a school and watch pupils perform their interpretation of Hamlet. The teenagers were great and I found the short film quite moving – it was a great introduction to the tragedy.

You will be pleased to know, I’m not going to re-tell the story of Hamlet but I will say that I was blown away by the production. Cumberbatch was mesmerising – he gave the performance his all – I didn’t see blood but there was definitely sweat and tears. Sian Brooke’s Ophelia was outstanding – she was jittery, anxious, wretched and ultimately, heartbreaking. Her stage exit lead onto Gertrude’s wonderful description of her death. It’s one of my favourite pieces by Shakespeare – I’ve always thought Ophelia’s unfortunate demise sounded beautiful and Anastasia Hille gave it justice as Gertrude.  

When you go to the theatre, unless you’ve got fantastic eyesight and front row seats, you rarely see just how much emotion goes into a role. With National Theatre Live you are able to see exactly how good an actor is. Veins were pumping, noses were running and tears were flowing. Close ups of everyone’s face whilst they give their lines added so much to the words. For me Hamlet was brought to life. If I didn’t catch all the words it didn’t matter as the cast told me their story regardless. Mum did complain a little about the camera work, in that she had to look where the camera went rather than being able to focus wherever she wanted on the stage. Mum likes to make sure she isn’t missing anything and would prefer to have seen the whole stage more often. I guess it is a loss but for me the close ups made up for it.

Like most Shakespeare plays it was lengthy and I was glad to stretch my legs afterwards. However, for those 3 hours I was transported out of myself and into another world. A world where Prince’s avenge their father, and daughters grieve for theirs. A world that was available in Fife for the princely sum of £12 (pardon the pub)! Yes, I know. £12 and it was only a tenner for my mum. National Theatre Live has made productions that normally would be nigh near impossible to see accessible and I can’t recommend it enough. Mum and I are now converts and we’ve already bought tickets for Of Mice and Men, which will be shown from New York in January.

If this has interested you at all, you should check out future showings near you by National Theatre Live – you won’t regret it.