Four Hours? I’m pretty sure Shakespearian audiences wouldn’t have put up with that.
So I was fortunate enough to book tickets to see Hamlet, and young enough for the tickets to cost £10. And then I heard of people queuing from 5.30 am to try and get returns. WOW. And although it may seem like a long time to wait, turns out that when the box office opens at 9, they’ll actually have waited less time than the whole performance takes: at least they’re getting value for money.
Or are they?
Personally, the production was a little over thought for me. There were particular highlights: the modern take on in-the-round meant that my front row seats couldn’t be nearer the action – when one feels Michael Sheen’s spit on them, it certainly elevates the performance to another level – however the ‘pre-show journey’ was ill-considered…
Being the nosy spectator that I am, I find it difficult to enjoy site specific productions that accept the idea of audience passivity and beliefs. If we are walking through an area and there is food on a table, I expect to be able to take that food, not have a Young Vic usher tell me off and demand I put it back. Everything that is placed in a site specific piece should be availiable for audiences to engage with – otherwise what is the point of letting us physically walk through a characters space? It added nothing to the final performance, it was just as effective with the small part of the prison/hospital we could see from our seats.
Sheen’s performance of Hamlet was strong – he breathed 21st century life into his words, playing with intonations and syllables: “CUNT-try” being a particular shocker to certain audience members. However he was very limited with his expression during the big iconic speeches – a man torn as sch in my opinion wouldn’t just be sitting in a chair having these dark thoughts – whether that was a directorial decision or Sheen’s own, I didn’t find it as effective as I wanted it to be.
All in all though, the production does still show how relevant and brilliant Shakespeare’s work can be to 21st Century audiences.