Hamlet 2001 (Brook)
- Director: Peter Brook
- Based on book: by Shakespeare
- Cast: Adrian Lester, Jeffery Kissoon, Natasha Parry, Bruce Myers, Scott Handy, Shantala Shivaligappa, Rohan Siva, Asil Raïs, Yoshi Oïda,
- Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
- Adrian Lester – No such reaction since I know his roles well. Here are some of them: Hustle, The Day After Tomorrow, As You Like It, Born Romantic
- Seen: February 23, 2013
Peter Brook is known as an outstanding Shakespearean director with his own radical interpretations of the pays so I was expecting, well, a radical interpretation.
He does make some drastic cuts here and scared me into thinking he’d cut “to be or not to be” because it came almost at the end, but it did come, way out of order like a lot of the other scenes. But essentially the story and characters are there. If you had no idea what Hamlet is about, you’d get a fair picture from this production (it’s not so much a movie as filmed theater).
The most radical change that is unfair to Shakespeare is that there is no humor. Hamlet is an extremely funny play but this version is not. Well, I can live with that.
Two other things make this production stand out. One is the international cast. They are from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds with varying richness of skin color and accents. In fact the whole play isn’t even in English. The First Player gives his Hecuba speech in what I am guessing is Japanese and since this monolog is practically incomprehensible in English it works just fine in Japanese. Very powerful in fact.
The second thing is the incredible setting. Minimalist props – essentially an empty stage with a few pillows, low tables, oil lamps and in the background sometimes a stairway and door. But the colors! Rich reds, black or white or dark blue clothes, an orange/gold tone in the lighting. The blackness of Hamlet with the whiteness of Horatio against a glowing red background – beautiful!
The acting is mostly superb. Adrian Lester is one of my favorite actors and he does an outstanding Hamlet. Mostly very introspective, quiet, thoughtful with very effective moments of intense anguish and far less violence than most actors in the role. His depth of character is often expressed in very subtle shifts of facial expression. He rivals Helena Bonham-Carter for getting across oceans of emotion with a twitched eyebrow or a millimeter drop of the corner of the mouth.
The rest were good too except for Natasha Parry as Gertrude. Somehow it didn’t work. Especially in the all-important closet scene Gertrude seemed more annoyed with the whole thing and didn’t really seem to like Hamlet very much. At least she wasn’t the guilt-ridden weepy sexpot of the Olivier school but more involvement would be good. Parry’s interpretation prevents a full score.
Adrian Lester, the minimalist music, the colors of skin and setting – 100* of 100. Magnifique! The cast generally, 10 of 10. As a whole
9 ½ * of 10
PS Update 18 July 2016 - this time I liked Natasha Perry's interpretations very much! The annoyed and reserved attitude towards her mad son was very good indeed! Which should raise the rating to a 10...
PPS Read more about Hamlet in Shakespeare in my book Shakespeare Calling - the book available on Amazon.com