From Moriarty To Hamlet
‘I have heard
That guilty creatures sitting at a play
Have, by the very cunning of the scene,
Been struck so to the soul that presently
They have proclaimed their malefactions.’
In the face of Andrew Scott’s soul-striking Hamlet, it would not have been surprising to hear guilty audience members erupt in confession. Scott’s Prince of Denmark was so palpably tortured – inching between madness and love – that you could feel what it was like to be crushed by emotion, caught in his head. Then, just when it could all be too much, Shakespeare and Scott cued us up for a laugh.
Though he has been much lauded for his work in the theatre, Scott is best known for his role as Benedict Cumberbatch’s most compelling foe, Moriarty, in Sherlock.
Now, at the Harold Pinter Theatre in London’s West End, Scott brings Hamlet brilliantly to life. He delivers Shakespeare’s words so naturally that one can revel in their poignancy and cleverness without struggling to understand. Soliloquies that you have heard myriad times – ‘To be or not to be’, ‘How all occasions do inform against me, and spur my dull revenge!’ – gain new currency when paired with Scott’s non-verbals and offset by Director Robert Icke’s 21st Century, high tech setting.
This is another celebrated production for Icke, who also won the Best Director Olivier Award for his 2016 production of Oresteia. He and his creative team have built a striking set with backlit party rooms, shadowy curtains for spying on Hamlet and a CCTV wall where we first see David Rintoul as the justice-seeking Ghost of Hamlet’s Father. Sound Designer Tom Gibbons is particularly effective at using single blurred notes or dying TV crackle to highlight the claustrophobia of Hamlet’s situation.
This Hamlet cast is strong as a whole, with Peter Wight as a perfectly tiresome Polonious, Luke Thompson as a raging Laertes, Angus Wright as a scheming Claudius and Derbhle Crotty as the Wretched Queen, Gertrude. As Ophelia, Jessica Brown Findlay makes a moving transition from lighthearted lover to grief-smashed daughter.
Though the show is over three hours, with two breaks, we are on our chairs, riveted. What boggles is how the actors – particularly Scott – keep up their energy and remember all those lines.
If you are going to be in London this summer, get your tickets quickly, as this Hamlet has been selling out. Meanwhile, here are Andrew Scott, Jessica Brown Findlay and Robert Icke talking about the production.
Written by Elizabeth Newton