Andrew Scott shines in spectacular new staging of Hamlet – review

This Almeida Theatre production remains a must-see in its new West End setting.

There is little doubt that Andrew Scott has some sizeable shoes to fill, following in the footsteps of the numerous celebrated actors who have taken on this role over the ages. Scarcely two years have elapsed since London’s last big-name production of Hamlet – starring Benedict Cumberbatch in the titular role – opened to frenzied fanfare in the summer of 2015 and sold out the Barbican for its entire run.  We’re certain, however, that this Almeida Theatre production – which has transferred to the Harold Pinter Theatre, following a successful stint at Islington’s renowned theatre this spring – will soon be the talk of the town.

Andrew Scott absolutely shines in this bold, ambitious and intelligent reimagining of the Shakespearean tragedy. Adopting a conversational style, he breathes new life – and on occasion, some much-needed humour – into Hamlet’s well-known soliloquies. It’s a complex performance ranging from quiet contemplation to maddening rage, adopting the whole gamut of emotions in-between, but in each scene he oozes authenticity. It’s evidently a hugely demanding role but he never falters, delivering a captivating performance from start to finish.

While Scott is undoubtedly the star of the show, the supporting cast is equally impressive. Juliet Stevenson excels as the conflicted, anguished mother Gertrude; Angus Wright, as Claudius, plays the role of usurping stepfather with the cold efficiency required. Jessica Brown Findlay, as Ophelia, plays her part admirably; and while her descent into madness may feel a little sudden, it’s no less distressing to observe.

Robert Icke’s direction is masterful, too. Wrestling this classic text away from the confines of its original settings, he has reimagined Hamlet as a contemporary drama drenched in paranoia, set in a world of video surveillance and secret recordings. One or two elements may feel a little gimmicky at times, but for the most part it’s a resounding success, coming across as much more urgent and current than most modern plays.

We appreciate that Hamlet may not be everyone’s cup of tea – it is, at times, a challenging text, and this performance weighs in at nearly four hours, including two intervals. But there’s little doubt that this is an absolutely stunning interpretation of Shakespeare’s classic tragedy, one that, on press night, earns a well-deserved standing ovation. Andrew Scott, with an excellent supporting cast, positively dazzles in this spectacular new staging – for fans, this is an absolute must-see.

Gay Times gives Hamlet – 5/5

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