Hamlet Oozes with Energy

A review by Brenda Daniels and Sharon Emmerich.

A Feast of Tales began the year with a review of The Imitation Game, a film in which Benedict Cumberbatch delivered an outstanding performance as Alan Turing. As we draw to the close of 2015 A Feast of Tales features a review of another excellent Benedict Cumberbatch performance – that of  Hamlet, with Cumberbatch in the title role.

HAMLET by Shakespeare, , Writer - William Shakespeare, Director - Lyndsey Turner, Set design -Es Devlin, Lighting - Jane Cox, The Barbican, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson/

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet. Photo: Johan Perrson.

Hamlet is a popular Shakespeare play, certainly the one I have enjoyed the most, and this adaptation is very accessible, partly because of its costumes which have a 1930s look. The ghostly, gothic house setting, which gives the play a Victorian feel, also has the effect of updating this 500-year-old play.

The National Theatre Live performance 0f Hamlet opens with a short interview with Cumberbatch the person before immediately switching to the filmed version of the play. It was interesting to note the difference between Cumberbatch the person and Cumberbatch the performer. This difference was further highlighted by the scene in the play in which Hamlet uses a play (within the play) to sound out his murderous stepfather/uncle, Claudius (a very good Ciaran Hinds). In fact, Cumberbatch’s entire energetic and tortured rendition of Hamlet accurately portrays a character struggling to find truth in fabrication, both within himself and in others. An “imitation game” of another sort…

Hamlet releases on South African screens from Saturday 7 November for four screenings only: on 7, 11 and 12 November at 7.30pm and on 8 November at 2.30pm – at Cinema Nouveau theatres in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban and Cape Town.

Hamlet comes heartily recommended. But it is long (running time is three and a half hours including an interval) so brace yourselves!