I don’t think I’ve ever waited 15 months to see a play before.
Films yes – I can spend an extraordinarily long time waiting for those – and books… well, let’s just say I really hope Pat Rothfuss is in a writing mood this month (though I know he’s not my thingy).
Anyway, 15 months it has indeed been and finally, finally we got to take our seats for one of the most talked-about theatrical experiences in London in recent years. So I feel like – if for no other reason than the epic wait – I should plop down a few thoughts about what I saw.
I was fully expecting an excellent central performance, and I got it. One friend had said she was concerned Benedict Cumberbatch would have too much gravitas – frankly, be a little too old? – to play the university-aged prince of Denmark, but actually when he’s adopting his own tones and not Sherlock’s moody baritone he does, anyway, sound younger (although it is in Sherlock, I think, that we see proof that childish peevishness is well honed in his repertoire). And his finely honed sense of the ridiculous is simply perfect here. But what I wasn’t quite expecting was the set.
Holy mother of set design.
When we were last at the Barbican, for Richard II (I swear I do go and see plays that star people other than nerd heroes, promise), the staging was so spare; a huge space to fill – and a difficult one to dominate – it was all simple chains and metal walkways. This time the halls of Elsinore unfold and… well, I won’t give too much away for those watching in cinemas or with tickets still to be used. But I couldn’t not comment. As a character, the palace itself almost overwhelms the action; that we were quite near the back and all occasionally struggled to hear Ciaran Hinds’ Claudius probably only made the detailed construction and beautiful lighting all the more obvious.
So… was it worth the 15 month wait? Damn right it was. And now I look ahead into a week of London Film Festival screenings already beginning to feel hints of the sadness afterwards when all the fun is over.
Although after Hamlet, Suffragette, Trumbo and High Rise, some form of therapy might be required…