Hamlet has a special place in my heart as the play that opened my eyes to the wonders of Shakespeare while I was in school. The intricate meditations on death, love and the vulnerable boundary between reason and madness gripped me during A-level English, writes Hannah Kelly.
Greg Hersov’s adaptation is witty, contemporary and, dare I say it, cool … Cush Jumbo’s Hamlet goes beyond the need to determine a gender and with an extraordinary grip on movement, she plays the role completely centered on the lines. This Hamlet is simply.
Next to Jumbo, Ophelia (played by Norah Lopez Holden) and Laertes (Jonathan Ajayi) were the standouts. Ophelia moved me to tears in every scene. Lopez Holden transformed the sometimes passive and overlooked character into a tour de force of young passion, rage and grief with strength and courage. The lines between Ophelia and Laertes flew off the page with such rhythm and life that one could almost forget that the manuscript was written several hundred years ago. Joseph Marcell similarly took the offensive and annoying Polonius and turned him into a loving, humorous and kind father whose death was truly deplorable.
In the midst of these performances, there were unfortunately some missteps. The murder of Polonius fell flat in the middle of a scene that lacked much of the drama that the engraved error was supposed to create, and Adrian Dunbar’s King lacked the same dynamics that the rest of the cast brought to the tragedy. Unfortunately, this meant that the impressive and grandiose felt a bit out of place with the more intimate and quiet performances.
Hersov’s choice to cut off the last scene was a particularly gloomy but striking decision. The play ends with only Horatio left as the scene turns black and I went out hit by the desperate need for hope and legacy. Death finally felt and yet so immediate that it could not really be the end. Overall, this is a fresh and valuable performance, and one hopes that the weaknesses find a foothold as the show continues.
Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 until November 13th. Hours: 7pm; Wed and Sat matinees 14.00. Entrance: Sold out. Check the website for returns.