Hamlet Review: To BBC Or Not To BBC?

December 26, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

4.5HAMLET300HAMLET: Saturday 26th December, BBC2, 5.05pm ALERT ME

If you thought Jeremy Kyle was a chav-hating nutter, you really haven’t seen anything yet – David Tennant’s Hamlet is equally demented.

The plot, an estranged son seeking revenge on his uncle for murdering his father, would no doubt move along quicker if Hamlet had spared us the mental breakdowns and soliloquies. Just as well we have David Tennant to show us the wonderful methods to his madness.

At first you barely recognise him with hair slicked back and affected, stony glare. But before you know it he’s crouched on dark, reflective surfaces, giving a true ‘no holds barred’ performance of a man in deep melancholy. His uncle marries his widowed mother and you get the impression that he’s not keen on the union. The impression being a man on the verge of a marvelously executed breakdown.

When best friend Horatio (Peter De Jersey) tells Hamlet he’s seen his father’s ghost, Tennant goes all Dr. Who on us, displaying trademark quizzical arm gestures and wide-eyed inquisitiveness. The next thing we know he’s jumped into a lift and hatching a plot. Just don’t expect to see any Daleks.

When Horatio warns Hamlet that this whole episode ‘might draw you into madness’, you can’t help thinking it’s a bit late for that, as Tennant descends into utter insanity projecting innocence, eccentricity and obsession exquisitely onto our screens. His hair and eyes get bigger in relation to this (accompanied by a dodgy t-shirt surely not available in the 1600s) and don’t be surprised if he starts talking to the camera…

Other brilliant performances are played by Patrick Stewart as Claudius, Oliver Ford Davies as Polonius and Mariah Gale as the beautiful, understated and utterly confused Ophelia. Although if our love object started staring at people’s faces and jumping at people with his shoes off we’d be the same.

Overall the music and scenery are well polished. Honestly, the floor is so shiny you wonder what they used in 1600 before ‘Pledge’ was invented. Music is dramatic without being scary and sure, you do wonder if denim was the right way to go costume wise but it’s a modern production for telly so I’ll ask no further questions.

It may also be difficult to follow the dialogue sometimes but the on-screen production more than makes up for it (see: Tennant’s ‘crazy eyes’). This is a Christmas show well worth watching – you don’t have to be Shakespeare to see that.

I think of David Tennant he is playing Hamlet and it was wonderful performance of all of the cast including especially for Patrick Stewart and David Tennant i better say good luck for the PBS in florida and i hope he is so arttistic man i see in england with Patrick Stewart and i am find i am making a project on Hamlet and others on the PSN club.

Jackie Roe-Lawton says:

I feel I must add my own praise for the wonderful performance of all of the cast – and especially David Tennant. Yes, the reviewer picked up on the “dodgy t-shirt surely not available in the 1600s” and neither were CCTV cameras or modern revolver guns – but these trappings of modern life and props readily seen in any performance of our times, made the viewer focus on the amazing language and I and my husband lost ourselves in the archaic imagery presented by a modern dressed, familiar faced cast.
The background of any period piece is lush and rich with articles from the era, distracting the viewer by their very oddness and exoticism – by stripping these away and giving us a performance that was ALL talent and no distractions, the RSC and the BBC gave us an offering of pure magic, the essence of the message of the deeds and misdeeds delivered whole, and concentrated, going straight to the pleasure centres of the thinking mind. This is a shining example of talent and a tremendous accolade for the whole cast is well deserved & should follow! I, for one, will not begrudge my license fee for this whole year!
And by the way – they had highly polished marble in ancient Rome – but again, no “Pledge” – Who Knew??