Friday, October 16, 2015

Hamlet from the National Theatre Live

Paper copies of Hamlet’s first and second soliloquies hang on the glass doors between the dining room and the family room at this house.

Everytime someone passes from one room to the other, Rebecca calls out some Shakespearian turn of words to them from these papers, so it was no wonder that so many of the ideas and phrases were familiar to Duncan, and he caught them, as Benedict Cumberbatch delivered them to us at the cinema last night. 

The show sold out, as there were classloads of kids from college and the private schools.  And THAT is how we got in.  Stacy and Felix got their first, and texted us to say that there were only 10 tickets left for sale.  By the time Rebecca got to the line, it was already sold out.  However, she could see the people ahead of her looking at lists of names, and counting up.  So she asked them if they had any no-shows on their tickets, and if so, could she buy some.  She bought two tickets from each of them, which got us in.  Because Stacy had saved seats, we also had a nice location to watch from.  Success!

There is a certain energy that comes when you have a sold-out theatre of people who know the play and are wanting to see it.  For once, the audience was only lightly peppered with old souls rather than being constituted by them.

So…. Cumberbatch!   I want a jacket like his that says “King” across the back.  The test question for the post is, “what was on his t-shirt”?   It  looked like an ape playing a guitar with a microphone up to the mouth.  Anyone?  It looked amazing with the “King” jacket.  The toy soldier theme carried the madness imagery along throughout. 

Duncan loved the toy castle surrounded by life size toy soldiers, from which one of Hamlet’s friends grabbed a gun.  The whole audience laughed when Cumberbatch mimed walking down stairs from inside the castle. 

The music choices were wonderful.  The broadcast began with a focus on the audience at the Barbican, and the music to Nat King Cole’s classic, “Nature Boy”, 

To start with, I thought, Hey, they have the wrong soundtrack.  Something is wrong here.  And then the camera panned off of the audience to the stage where Cumberbatch was sitting on the floor, listening to an old vinyl recording of the song, and looking through old photo albums, and picking up an old coat and holding it to his face to smell it. 

Who hasn’t wanted the smell of their father once more?

The actor who played King Claudius was also amazingly strong.  A very powerful actor.  We had to look up his filmography when we got home – and the boys were familiar with his work from fantasy movies.

Another great musical moment was in the Gravedigger scene, where the gravedigger was flinging bones out of an old grave to make way for a fresh body, while singing Billie Holiday’s song “All of Me”.   When he used an arm bone like a microphone to sing the words “Take my arms, I’ll never use them”, the audience cracked up.

If you want to see it again (or arrived like Mary and Leo to find it sold out), it is playing again on Nov 7, 8, 9, and 11.

Two nights ago, we watched Baz Lurman’s Great Gatsby, set in the 20s.   Last night, we watched a play written in 1601, which has musical choices that came out of the swing era. 

That is what is so hard about living in 2015.  You have to be aware of 400 years of theatrical choices. 

I am hoping to get to the opera on Saturday! It is exhausting!  Still, healing is easier when everybody brings their collective energy and I can gather it in from my own theatre seat.

See you at the Imax.



  1. I do know that feeling of the collective energy of a sold-out performance. I wonder if it was sold out here in Salmon Arm. I had to pass on yesterdays showing, but will keep my eyes peeled in November. (that idiom sounds horrible after reading about 'All of me' sung with the bone from a grave).

  2. The show is full of hidden jokes, musical and literary allusions and costuming that makes one question again, what is going on.

    The play was shorter than we had suspected -- I think 3 hours and 20 minutes and I don't know if that was with our without the intermission.

    I keep thinking back to the play -- one of the bonuses of good work -- that it lingers long after the curtain is down.