Dr. Who-mlet: RSC’s Modern-Spin on Hamlet

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The Royal Shakespeare company puts a modern-twist on Shakespeare’s infamous Hamlet, in this TV movie version of their stage production. The Prince of Denmark seeks sweet vengeance after his father is murdered and his mother marries the murderer.

Gregory Doran’s production of Hamlet is  the most beautiful and well-acted version of the play that I’ve ever seen, but then again, this is the only one I’ve watched. However, in all seriousness, this is a fantastic modern take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and it’s all on Youtube! David Tennant plays the tragic Prince Hamlet and, much to my surprise, has no difficulty in transitioning from the infamous Time Lord of Doctor Who to the man who smells that something is rotten in the state of Denmark. He plays a fantastic Hamlet whose ideals, and occasionally his issues, are a key piece to the production.

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Tennant’s performance is invigorating. His Hamlet is brought back to life after seeing the ghost of his father,  which reveals his unstable and excitable self. It is also interesting to see how Tennant paints the facade of Hamlet’s persona, which completely melts away the second he is left to his own demons. He is a character of quick wits and even quicker tongue, which makes the play far more interesting then the audio book I’m listening to in English. Some of the most quirky moments of the play are when he wears his crown at a tipsy angle after the performance scene and when he mimics the prattling Polonius. Also, Tennant superbly performs Hamlet’s dangerous side, expressing impulsive rage and unpredictable spouts of crazy, which provides for great entertainment.

Patrick Stewart’s Claudius is amazingly performed as a methodical murder. In the final scene, instead of breaking down in a state of panic like most versions of Hamlet, he just walks over to Hamlet and shakes his head as if he is saying “you’ve ruined everything”. Polonius, played by Oliver Ford Davies, is a fantastic detailed-obsessed, humorous politician who has the impulse to define every word he uses: explaining every sentence three times over (he shares this trait with Hamlet ironically enough). There performances solidify the fact that there is more to Hamlet than just Hamlet.

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Besides the fantastic performances, one of the other most interesting factors in the play is its ingenious eye for detail. For example, the scene that made me laugh the hardest was when Laertes is lecturing his sister Ophelia on the status of her virginity, but when he walks off, a condom falls out of his luggage. That minor detail is what separated that scene from all the rest, in my opinion. Also, I was almost moved to tears in the scene where Stewart as the Ghost of King Hamlet consoles the desolate Gertrude, a performance that plucked the deepest chord of my heart.

Although most people will flock to this spin on Hamlet to watch Doctor Who’s interesting transformation to the wild Prince, they will discover that they stayed for one of the greatest takes on Shakespeare’s tragic classic.

You can find the movie on Youtube here: http://goo.gl/IJPJND

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