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I'm back from London and seeing Hamlet at the Barbican.

We sat in the Upper Circle, middle of the front row, which gave us a perfect bird's eye view of the entire stage.

I really liked their take on the play. It was a modern enough version to not feel like the same old, but not too modern as too lose its Shakespearean touch.

The stage, the lightning, the effects where all fantastic and gave the play a lot of atmosphere. Orpehlia's death, and the entire second part, really, stand out most in that respect.

I very much liked the way they framed Hamlet's monologues. The stage light would dim, with just a spot light on Hamlet himself, and the rest of the scene would just slow down. All the other actors continued to move in slow motion while Hamlet spoke, which made Hamlet effectively step out of the scene. Then suddenly, when he was finished, he would seamlessly step back into it, when the light came back on, like it had never been interrupted at all.

The only part I felt was a little rushed and strangely choreographed was the last scene with its four deaths. There was one moment, when Hamlet stabs Laertes in slow motion, that just was a little over the top. And this might be why the other three deaths, including Hamlets, felt a little anticlimactic with little emotional impact.

All the actors did a great job. I can't remember a single weak performance, but my favourite has to be Jim Norton's Polonius. Every single of his lines what delivered perfectly and just sounded so effortlessly natural.

Between him and the way they portrayed Hamlet's pretend madness the play had quite a few moments of comedic gold to lighten the mood. After all, Hamlet can be a little sarcastic shit.

And this contrast, between his fuck you all attitude and the struggles underneath probably made him the most human and relateable version of the character I've seen so far. Not necessary more likable, though. I never thought Hamlet was a particularly likable guy.

Obviously, I have to talk about Benedict Cumberbatch, whose performance was just as as good as expected, and in the course of the play ranged from a simple "solid" to "bloody brilliant" in some scenes. He doesn't have the presence of a James McAvoy (who will probably always be my prime example of "I'm virtually incapable of focusing in anyone or anything else when he's on stage"). He doesn't demand attention - not when there is so much else going on to compete for it - but he's still worth paying attention to.

But almost more than his performance, he impressed me by the end of it. Just the way you could basically see the character fall off, and where suddenly confronted with a small and almost embarrassed smile when he stepped forward from the rest of the cast for his applause. And the way he asked us for five more minutes of our time and very eloquently started talking about the refugee crisis, criticized Britain's (lack of) involvement, and asked the audience for a donation on their way out.

I wouldn't really call myself a fan of his, but he just comes across as this genuinely nice, intelligent and humble person. I have the greatest respect for him.

Last but not least: A huge thank you has to go to the staff of the Barbican, who where all incredibly helpful and friendly, and made this experience the best it could be.

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April 2016


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