Arts Review, Movies


Hamlet featured image

Screening Nov. 7, 8, 9 and 11 at Cineplex theatres
Lyndsey Turner, director
The Bard, the script
Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch (Hamlet), Ciaran Hinds (Claudius), Leo Bill (Horatio), Jim Norton (Polonius), Anastasia Hille (Gertrude), Sian Brooke (Ophelia)

The British National Theatre’s production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch has already made box office history twice, selling out all of its performances at the Barbican in record time and then being seen by over 225,000 viewers worldwide last month. It’s such a success that Cineplex and NTLive have brought it back for repeat screenings over the next five days.

Benedict Cumberbatch justifies the hype surrounding this production. His interpretation of Hamlet is fascinating but not exactly what one would expect from the star of BBC’s Sherlock and the acclaimed Alan Turing film The Imitation Game. While we certainly see patches of the tormented intellectual that one presumed we’d encounter, this Hamlet is more of a trickster. It’s clear quite early on that Cumberbatch has decided to go for a Danish Prince who is playing at being crazy.

There’s precious little ambiguity in his interpretation, whether it’s dealing with Ophelia, whom he immediately suspects of betraying him, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern—ditto—or Polonius and Claudius. His relationship with Gertrude, often performed with a heavy Freudian hand, is simply played for anger at her role in the death of her husband and his father, the old King.

In fact, Cumberbatch’s Hamlet is almost an action hero, pretending to be mad so that he can burst into action once he’s sure that Claudius and Gertrude have, indeed, conspired to kill the king. We see him racing across the stage at the slightest provocation and it’s no surprise that he’s as good as Laertes with his sword in the play’s climatic scene.

Lyndsey Turner and her team have created an open, very operatic set , which functions as a mansion in all of its regal glory in the first acts and then descends into ruined decadence for the final acts. (This being a modern production, Acts One through Three are the new “Act One” with Four and Five being the second act.) This is a Hamlet well worth seeing. It’s a fine interpretation among many of one of the finest plays of all time.

Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus

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