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!

Shakespeare’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Filmed live in Stratford-Upon-Avon

Releases exclusively at Cinema Nouveau and select Ster-Kinekor theatres.

The company’s production of the romantic comedy, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, will be screened in South Africa, on 27 September, 1 and 2 October at 7.30pm, and on 28 September at 2.30pm, at Cinema Nouveau Rosebank Mall in Johannesburg, Brooklyn Mall in Pretoria, Gateway in Durban and V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, as well as at the following select Ster-Kinekor cinemas: Somerset Mall in Somerset West, Garden Route Mall in George and Bedford Centre in Johannesburg.

Shakespeare comments on friendship, love, constancy and fickleness in a play that takes the audience from the controlled world of Verona and Milan to the wildness of the forest where, it seems, anything can happen…

Simon Godwin’s production is “set in modern Italy, with a Dolce Vita buzz of scooters, nightclubs and open air cafés” (Daily Telegraph).

The running time of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is two hours 25 minutes, plus a 20-minute interval.

To book tickets and for more information about The Two Gentlemen of Verona, contact www.cinemanouveau.co.za, Ticketline 0861 668 437.

Photo: Supplied by Ster Kinekor

Photo: Supplied by Ster Kinekor


Hearing King Lear – with National Theatre Live

The National Theatre Live screening of Shakespeare’s tragedy, King Lear is not to be missed if you’re studying it at school and certainly not if you just love anything to do with this 16th Century literary genius. It is showing (in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, Cape Town and at Ster-Kinekor Blue Route Mall in Tokai) on 14, 15, 18 and 19 June only.

It goes without saying that Shakespeare was meant to be performed. Not read. But it’s worth reiterating. During my school days we watched one of Shakespeare’s plays on film. Another one was accompanied by a voice over. For the rest it was reading. And that was difficult.

Watching a play being performed brings it to life and helps the viewer understand this writer’s often inaccessible old English. The inflections, the pauses, the tone of voice, facial expressions and movement of the actors all communicate and help the viewer/listener understand and therefore appreciate the words.

I had never read (or watched!) King Lear so this production was a superb introduction. Whilst the language is true to the original, director Sam Mendes brings some modernity to the play by using modern-day clothing and stage set. But, as alluded to above, it was the performance of the excellent actors that enriched my experience of this play.

The action opens with King Lear dividing his kingdom between his three daughters, Regan, Goneril and Cordelia, based on their professions of love for him. Devastated by his favourite’s (Cordelia) unwillingness to flatter him, the king hands his estate to the other two and then gradually descends into madness.

Goneril and Cordelia become greedy and turn their backs on Lear, an act which contributes to his poor mental state. Shunned by his family, Lear’s only companions become the faithful servants in his realm. A parallel story of filial love/betrayal is that between the Earl of Gloucester and his two sons (one of whom is illegitimate).

As with many of Shakespeare’s plays, weather conditions act as portents of things to come. This one is no different. Thunder and even rain accompany descriptions of lightning.

A brief interview at intermission reveals the thought and research that were used to make this production the emotional, understandable one it is.

King Lear screens at 7.30pm on 14, 18 and 19 June and at 2.30pm on 15 June at the theatres mentioned above. With an intermission, the performance is three and a half hours long. Visit www.cinemanouveau.co.za or call Ticketline on 082 16789.

A 1600s print out for King Lear

A 1600s print out for King Lear which is to be screened in South Africa from the National Theatre in London. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear's court, a scene from Shakespeare's play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons

Cordelia in King Lear’s court, a scene from Shakespeare’s play, King Lear. Photo: Creative Commons