Hamlet holds a special place in my heart as the play that opened my eyes to the wonders of Shakespeare whilst I was at school. The intricate meditations on death, love and the vulnerable line between sanity and madness gripped me during A level English, writes Hannah Kelly.
Greg Hersov’s adaptation is witty, contemporary and, dare I say it, cool… Cush Jumbo’s Hamlet goes beyond the need to ascertain a gender and with an extraordinary handle on movement, she plays the role wholly centred on the lines. This Hamlet simply is.
Alongside Jumbo, Ophelia (played by Norah Lopez Holden) and Laertes (Jonathan Ajayi) were the stand out performances. Ophelia moved me to tears in every scene. Lopez Holden transformed the sometimes passive and overlooked character into a tour de force of young passion, rage and grief with strength and courage. The lines between Ophelia and Laertes flew off the page with such rhythm and life that one could almost forget that the script was written hundreds of years ago. Joseph Marcell similarly took the bumbling and irritating Polonius and transformed him into a loving, humorous, and kind father whose death was genuinely regrettable.
Amidst these performances there were sadly some missteps. The murder of Polonius fell flat amidst a scene that lacked much of the drama that the graven mistake should create, and Adrian Dunbar’s King lacked the same dynamism that the rest of the cast brought to the tragedy. Sadly, this meant that the impressive and grandiose felt somewhat out of kilter with the more intimate and quiet performances.
Hersov’s choice to cut the final scene was a particularly bleak, but striking decision. The play ends with only Horatio left as the stage cuts to black and I walked out struck by the desperate need for hope and legacy. Death felt final and yet so immediate that it couldn’t truly be the end. Overall, this is a fresh and worthwhile performance, and one hopes that the weaknesses will find their footing as the show goes on.
Young Vic, The Cut, SE1 until November 13th. Times: 7.00pm; Wed & Sat matinees 2pm. Admission: Sold Out. Check website for Returns.