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10 December 2015 @ 02:58 pm
leftover odds and ends  
I must have written this the day after I saw the Cumberbatch Hamlet, but then I got distracted by writing a blog post instead, and never came back to finish this. Anyway, I just found it on my computer, so for completeness' sake:

Further thoughts, about Benedict Cumberbatch this time – or at least about his Hamlet. I felt largely as though he was very clear and comprehensible in everything he said – which is no small feat – but that his performance was all of a sameness. I think he needed a director who would have pushed him to differentiate the emotional temperature of one soliloquy from another more, so that they weren’t all the same combination of weepy and weary. But I especially felt this in the non-soliloquy parts (which are some of my favorites, actually), the antic disposition: it felt to me that he had settled on a Hamlet whose primary motivation was “oh, if only they’d leave me alone” – but as much sense as that might make for his situation, it doesn’t give an actor much to work with in terms of why he’s saying or doing any of the things he’s doing. No one is forcing him to dress up like a toy soldier and play in a child’s castle, after all; most people in Elsinore would be much happier if he simply stayed out of the way and didn’t make a fuss.

This felt especially problematic when Hamlet is talking to Polonius about clouds that are shaped like weasels and whales: BC made the decision to say the lines in an antic way, but to drop the antic disposition during each of Polonius’ lines, as if he was too aggrieved to keep up the pretense. But he starts this cloud-conversation, so he needs some sort of motivation for it. This is where I missed David Tennant and Greg Doran most acutely, I think: one of the most remarkable things about their production is the fact that each moment of Hamlet (the character) has been thought out, so that it’s always clear where he is in an emotional trajectory. After he believes that Claudius’ response to the play proves that the ghost was telling the truth, Tennant’s Hamlet experiences this manic exhilaration that makes his antic behavior – the recorders, the camel-clouds, all of it – make perfect sense – and it’s the last ebb of that exhilaration that causes him to act so rashly and stab Polonius behind the arras. (Incidentally, I wanted both more anticness and more variety in BC’s antic disposition: things like Tennant’s mock-languid, haughty dismissal of Guildenstern – “Have you any further trade with us?” – are etched onto my brain, and I felt that BC reacted nearly always with a combination of hurt and anger that just started to feel unsurprising, like his performance didn’t quite have anything new left to tell me about his version of the character. Each individual moment was fine, but they didn’t all add up to a lot, for me.)
the cold genius: i cannot make you a wholesome answerangevin2 on December 11th, 2015 02:48 am (UTC)
I spent pretty much the whole production wishing I were watching DT's Hamlet instead, honestly. I mean, Cumberbatch didn't embarrass himself or anything? But it was a pretty forgettable production on the whole.
tempestsarekind: hamlet--though you can fret metempestsarekind on December 11th, 2015 03:46 am (UTC)
I probably spend most things wishing I could be watching Tennant's Hamlet. :) But yeah, BC was…fine, I suppose, just not that interesting considering how varied Hamlet is as a character and how much you could potentially get out of him.
the cold genius: behold his eye as bright as is the eagleangevin2 on December 11th, 2015 11:13 pm (UTC)
Fun story (not really that fun): I was severely depressed for several weeks after seeing Tennant's Richard II on the grounds that nothing in my life would ever be as good as that. I'm still not convinced, actually, that anything ever will be, EXCEPT that I'm seeing the revival in London in a little over a month. ;)
tempestsarekind: berowne [david tennant 2008]tempestsarekind on December 12th, 2015 05:27 pm (UTC)
It's the gift that keeps on giving! :) Seriously, though, that's amazing and I'm so happy that you're getting to see it!
La Reine Noire: Elizabethlareinenoire on December 11th, 2015 05:41 pm (UTC)
Total agreement that I spent the whole time comparing the production to the Doran/Tennant version and finding it lacking. Part of that could well have been how overhyped it was, but Tennant's was also pretty crazy from a publicity standpoint and it still managed to stand up to that. It really felt like the director was trying to do way too much and refusing to trust the text to stand on its own (as I remember you and I discussed last month). I don't agree with everything Greg Doran does, but he at least tends to leave the text to do its thing (well, except where Stabby!Aumerle is concerned).
tempestsarekind: hamlet--though you can fret metempestsarekind on December 12th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC)
I know that *I* spent a lot of time anticipating the Doran/Tennant Hamlet (even before I knew I'd be able to see it!), and it was still able to live up to my personal hype, at least. I agree about the Cumberbatch version: the director seemed interested in many things, but one of those things was unfortunately not the text and its possibilities.
La Reine Noire: Elizabethlareinenoire on December 14th, 2015 12:42 am (UTC)
Yeah, I was really not a fan of the chopped-up patchwork text. With the exception of Horatio (who I really did not like) and Guildenstern (who seemed nervous/wooden to me), I thought the cast was fine, but the script did them absolutely no favors.
tempestsarekind: hamlet/horatio OTPtempestsarekind on December 16th, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Oh man, Horatio was terrible. I can't even figure out how he got cast.
La Reine Noire: Austen - Venting Spleenlareinenoire on December 16th, 2015 03:06 am (UTC)
The hypnotic power of the hipster beard. That's the only explanation I can think of.
tempestsarekindtempestsarekind on December 16th, 2015 03:15 am (UTC)
Heh. That must be it. Someone thought he could draw the Lumineers audience, maybe.