Monday, 23 March 2015


Everyman Cinema
Filmed production of the Manchester Royal Exchange Hamlet
Directed by Sarah Frankcom

Hamlet - Maxine Peake
Claudius - John Shrapnel

Really excellent production with absolute minimum of props and set.  Clarity of delivery was exemplary: heard almost every single word. No Fortinbras, as is the fashion these days (a vital ingredient missed, while at the same time an understandable exclusion), and for some reason To be or not to be was shifted to Act IV.

 Peake was a convincing if not particularly attractive Hamlet - hardly a sweet prince with his sardonic scowls and easy superiority. But she was wholly Hamlet, thoroughly inside the part. Occasionally a passing resemblance to the young Leonardo di Caprio scittered into my mind's eye, but soon passed out again.  The supporting cast was very good indeed.  Shrapnel may have given the best Claudius I've ever seen, and turning Polonius into Polonia (Gillian Bevan) made that character less stock, rather fresh and very funny.  Laertes (Ashley Zhanghaza) was tremendously Laertes-like - honest and upset and loving.

But as always with Hamlet, whatever it is that surrounds the character is dominated by the part.  There have been great Hamlets in so-so productions.  I don't know if Peake is a great Hamlet - it is a performance that has to mature in the memory  (Paul Rhys's remains my first choice), but the production was first class.

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