December 10, 2008, by Peter Kirwan

The Hamlet Drama

Sigh. Only a few months ago, I barely bothered to review the RSC’s Hamlet as, frankly, I was bored of the blanket coverage of the play even before I’d seen it. And since then, there’s been no let up. There was the drama about the skull, then the drama when the skull was removed, and now there’s the drama surrounding Tennant having to miss the first few London performances and be replaced by an understudy for the capital’s press night. We’ve even had stories bemoaning the amount of stories.

Well, now I’m just sick of it. It’s a fine production (though hardly as epoch-making as some of the raving might suggest – I thought the Tobacco Factory’s was better), but the hype surrounding it has, to my mind, been the death of it. Is it not enough to simply go and see a good cast performing a great play? No, it has to be An Event. And that Event status has, to my mind, been in many respects seriously detrimental, not least in the overweighted focus on one actor (despite the star names and excellent performances in other roles).

But, all credit to Edward Bennett. Despite some of the appalling treatment the production has received in London by theatregoers who have decided not to bother going because of Tennant’s absence, he has gone out and, in all probabability, given the performance of his life. The critical attention he gets is thoroughly deserved – for not only is he taking on Hamlet, but he’s taking on the ludicrous media circus that surrounds this production. And all credit to the RSC for sticking to their principles and letting him take on the role on press night.

Now, if I heard nothing else about this production EVER AGAIN, that would be lovely.

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