National Theatre Live: Hamlet (2015)

This was an experience different from the normal run of movies so far.  In a traditional cinema but watching a live broadcast of the Hamlet play happening in the Barbican Centre from London.  There was something quite unique watching this shared live experience, even though all the clapping and standing ovations happened down in London.

Hamlet is one of William Shakespeare’s oldest and most covered plays, and taking on the role of this iconic character was Benedict Cumberbatch.  The play was a modern adaptation but didn’t stray too far from its 17th century roots.   In other words, it wasn’t completely updated to be modern to the point that it distracted from the dialogue (see Joss Whedans Much Ado About Nothing <shudders>).

West-end and Broadway productions are always impressive in how they can morph the stage into a variety of different scenes with minimal effort.  The production was broadcast in full high definition (courtesy of Sky Arts) with a number of camera angles making your forget you were watching a stage.  In many respects you got a far more intimate view of the action than normally seated in the one place.

Shakespeare takes a bit of use to if you are not familiar with that type and rhythm of dialogue.  I have many favourites (some will be reviewed in this series at some point) and Hamlet doesn’t usually make my top list.  So for that reason you forget just how many phrases this play introduce to the English vocabulary – and that is before we get to the classic To Be or not To Be.

Cumberbatch was fantastic in this production.  The sheer ability to not only remember all his lines (and he didn’t have an ear piece) but to deliver them with the emotion and conviction you would expect.  Not all the cast had this passion, some you felt were definitely reading from memory, hoping they got everything right forgetting to feel the character they were portraying.

Ciarán Hinds adds more Hollywood gravitas to this production as the King, reminding us all, that acting is more than just what we see after all the editing and tweaking of a cinematic production.

This was a wonderful break from the usual viewing methods and one I would eagerly run towards again if given the chance. 


Viewing Date
Thursday, 15th October 2015



Author: Alan Williamson

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