Generally, when we go to Waterloo to see a broadcast version of a National Theatre Live production, we join a very small group of other audience members. Twenty would be a large audience. Imagine our surprise then, to find the theatre almost full for the NTL production of Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch! Clearly, many of the audience were there for Cumberbatch, not Hamlet. But such is the power of Shakespeare that no one left at the intermission.
The performance by Cumberbatch was definitely worth seeing. His Hamlet was angry, but not mad. He played at being mad, especially in an amusing scene where he dresses as a toy soldier and plays in a large toy castle, but there was no doubt that he knew what he was doing at all times. Cumberbatch’s Hamlet was totally self centred, giving no thought to how his actions might affect others – Ophelia, his mother, his friends. In fact he cavalierly throws his friends to the executioner, ignoring the fact that they were unaware of the message contained in Claudius’s letter.
Cumberbatch dominated the play. The rest of the cast were unremarkable, although Claudius was good. Ophelia was embarrassing.