In this episode, we discuss the live cinema broadcast of the Barbican Theatre’s production of Hamlet (2015) directed by Lindsey Turner and starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet. We discuss Turner’s directorial choices, Cumberbatch’s performance, the cuts made to the text, the set and costumes, and what we gained from this interpretation. We also discuss how well the cinema broadcast captured the live theatre experience.
Featured in this episode
Alex Heeney, Host and Editor-in-Chief of Seventh Row. Follow her on Twitter @bwestcineaste.
David Larsen, Guest
Mary Angela Rowe, Guest and Editor at Large of Seventh Row. Follow her on Twitter @lapsedvictorian.
Craig Ruttan, Guest. Follow him on Twitter @crut.
This episode was edited and recorded by Cam White. Follow him on Twitter @JediDusk.
About the production
Barbican Theatre, London
Director: Lindsey Turner
Primary Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch (Hamlet), Ciarán Hinds (Claudius), Anastasia Hille (Gertrude), Siân Brooke (Ophelia), Jim Norton (Polonius), Karl Johnson (Ghost and Gravedigger)
For more information on the production, including additional showtimes near you, visit the National Theatre Live Website here.
Other productions referenced
Nicholas Hytner’s Hamlet starring Rory Kinnear (2010) — Alex’s favourite production
Rory Kinnear delivers Hamlet soliloquy
Hamlet at Canada’s Stratford Festival (2015) — the tense family drama
Hamlet at the California Shakespeare Theatre (2012) — the decaying swimming pool set
Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet film (1996)
Additional written references from the podcast
James Shapiro’s 1599: A Year in the Life of Shakespeare Ryan North’s To Be or Not to Be: That is the Adventure (The Hamlet book) Filmmaker Frederick Wiseman on using wide shots for documentary filmmaking (so he doesn’t miss anything)
Reviews of the previews
Kate Maltby reviewed the show for The Times during its previews …and got this backlash in the papers: “Don’t judge a play until press night” in The Guardian …and on Twitter, as reported in The Huffington Post This lead Lindsey Turner to move the “To be or not to be” soliloquy back to the third act: “To be or not to be moved back to third act”.
Interviews referenced in the podcast
Mark Rylance on performing Hamlet with a lot of pauses
No Holds Bard podcast explains the meaning behind the phrase “Country Matters”. An interview with Rory Kinnear and Nicholas Hytner
It was actually Rory Kinnear (not Richard Eyre or Nicholas Hytner) who pointed out that the scene between Gertrude and Hamlet takes place in the closet not the bedroom, though many productions put a bed onstage.