The Internet Theater Magazine of Reviews, Features, Annotated Listings








Etcetera and
Short Term Listings


NYC Restaurants


New Jersey







Free Updates
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp London London Review

. . . to be honest, as this world goes, is to be one man picked out of ten thousand — Hamlet
Rory Kinnear as Hamlet
(Photo: Johann Persson)
It has been long awaited: Rory Kinnear to play Shakespeare's most taxing role, the Prince of Denmark. So was it worth waiting for? Is Nicholas Hytner's modern production of Hamlet set within a police state original and inventive? Does the rising young actor match up to the role?

It is the first time I have seen the implication that Ophelia (Ruth Negga) did not drown but was eliminated by Claudius' (Patrick Malahide) henchmen. The last vision of Ophelia before the reporting of her death sees her being manhandled behind the scenes. What this ruse does is to throw into question Gertrude's beautiful speech about the drowning of Ophelia. New questions are raised. Is Gertrude (Clare Higgins) part of the cover up? Does she genuinely believe Ophelia fell? When Laertes asks about Ophelia, Gertrude looks at Claudius and says "Drown'd?" with a rising inflexion and then "Drown'd" she nods acquiescing. And for me despite having seen Hamlet so many times, I now want to know who is Gertrude's source for the description of the death of Ophelia. Who was watching Ophelia? Why didn't they rescue her? Did no one try to dive in after her? It makes a lot of sense that someone as ruthless as Claudius would want the embarrassment of the deranged Ophelia out of the way and I am surprised that, to my knowledge, no director has done this before. The players too are subject to arrest, a logical extension of offending the king in a police state.

Malahide's Claudius is mealy mouthed, a cold political wheeler dealer ruling over a state where fear and oppression are the order of the day and who puts his feet up on his desk as a statement of obvious control. Claire Higgins is an uncomfortable Gertrude, a homely queen out of her depth but who manages a sigh of relief as Claudius finishes his long opening speech.

The brooding presence of Hamlet is almost unnoticeable as he sits to the rear, his hands clasped tightly together during this reception where Laertes is warmly greeted before Claudius' token acknowledgement of the prince. Ruth Negga pleases as Ophelia in a role which often can be annoying or difficult. Solid performances from the ensemble complement the leads.

Although there are some sparks of originality from Hytner's production, overall it is for the actor that one would want to see this Hamlet. Original touches are the momentous noises of crows, the flapping of a book as Hamlet sits in his room thinking about the future. Then there is the placing of an anticipatory Hamlet during the play between Claudius and Gertrude and popping up between them rather than next to Ophelia. I liked too the exciting choreographed, dramatic mimed version of The Mousetrap before it is acted with words, without letting this scene dominate the production as so many do as a directorial trademark.

I last saw Kinnear as a solid Laertes in Trevor Nunn/Ben Whishaw's Hamlet at the Old Vic in 2004. Years back I was not an immediate fan of Rory Kinnear but in fairness I remember him in more comic roles. I didn't anticipate his Hamlet the way other critics did. I was wrong. This changed when I saw him at the National in Burnt by the Sun in 2009. As an actor he has an amazing range of facial expression and of acting with his body. Each gesture is under, rather than over stated, so as to be completely natural. He acts with his heart but is also naturally intelligent and contemplative, called for in the great soliloquies. He owns the role. His Hamlet is a troubled young man full of indecision and is sure to be counted as one of the great actors to play Hamlet—. and be nominated at the upcoming theatre awards for Best Actor.

Subscribe to our FREE email updates with a note from editor Elyse Sommer about additions to the website -- with main page hot links to the latest features posted at our numerous locations. To subscribe, E-mail:
put SUBSCRIBE CURTAINUP EMAIL UPDATE in the subject line and your full name and email address in the body of the message -- if you can spare a minute, tell us how you came to CurtainUp and from what part of the country.
Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Starring: David Calder, Clare Higgins, Rory Kinnear, Patrick Malahide, Ruth Negga
With: Matthew Barker, Marcus Cunningham, Jake Fairbrother, Richie Hart, Ferdinand Kingsley, Alex Lanipekun, James Laurenson, James Pearse, Michael Peavoy, Saskia Portway, Victor Power, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Nick Sampson, Michael Sheldon, Leo Staar , Zara Tempest-Walters, Giles Terera, Ellie Turner
Design: Vicki Mortimer
Music: Alex Baranowski
Fight Director: Kate Waters
Choreographer: Fin Walker
Lighting: Jon Clark
Sound: Paul Groothuis
Running time: Three hours 40 minutes with one interval
Box Office: 020 7452 3000
Booking to 9th January 2011
Reviewed by Lizzie Loveridge based on 8th October 2010 performance at the Olivier, National Theatre, South Bank, London SE1 9PX (Rail/Tube: Waterloo)

Highlight one of the responses below and click "copy" or"CTRL+C"
  • I agree with the review of Hamlet
  • I disagree with the review of Hamlet
  • The review made me eager to see Hamlet
Click on the address link E-mail:
Paste the highlighted text into the subject line (CTRL+ V):

Feel free to add detailed comments in the body of the email . . . also the names and emails of any friends to whom you'd like us to forward a copy of this review.

London Theatre Walks

Peter Ackroyd's  History of London: The Biography

London Sketchbook

tales from shakespeare
Retold by Tina Packer of Shakespeare & Co.
Click image to buy.
Our Review

©Copyright 2010, Elyse Sommer.
Information from this site may not be reproduced in print or online without specific permission from