September 26th, 2010


Simm Hamlet

I went to the Sheffield Crucible with my sister on Friday evening, and then with matildabj on Saturday afternoon. That's just how it worked out. So in one 24-hour period I spent seven hours watching John Simm as Hamlet.

I thought - and I still think - that the Tennant Hamlet at the RSC was an all time great experience. This Hamlet was not a life-milestone like that. Though funnily enough, if I had to predict, I would say that Simm probably has a more significant career ahead of him. (ETA - no, I have no idea actually, they are both great)

I thought the second performance was more confident, and I think there is every chance it will warm up further. I might see if I can see another, late in the run. I think possibly the direction needs some adjustment. At the start Simm's voice seemed tense, his throat constricted. He has quite a deep voice, a lovely voice, but it was high and whiny. It may be a decision to make him seem immature and petulant, but 'Oh, that this too, too solid flesh would melt...' should be beautiful. Forget whether Hamlet's immature.

Then as the play progressed, he did settle into it. I didn't feel quite as sucked into the emotion as I did with Tennant. I felt I was watching rather than participating. But it was honest and intelligent. I thought Hamlet's relations with Ophelia and his mother were like the relations of a real man to real women, albeit overbearing. He came across to me as very much a feudal prince, despite it being in modern dress, as a man in a country defined by fighting and killing. A person with a point of view, and a political interest, rather than the moral centre of the play. But perhaps I can't really sum this up in a few lines. Whether that means it's incoherent or complex I can't say.

Claudius was played by John Nettles (Mr Midsomer Murders) and I felt he also was not quite properly directed. He rushed many of his speeches, as if he thought that people would get bored. If they were worried about that they should have cut the words back, and given them more space. Physically I thought he was good, though one of our companions didn't like his fidgety business. I thought it made him seem uncomfortable with power, but greedy for it, which is good.

Gertrude was Barbara Flynn (Mrs Cracker) - I thought she was good. Her words just seemed in every case to be the natural thing that she would say.

I don't know. John Simm is a good fit for this role, but I am worried that his own consciousness of what he ought to be able to do is stopping him from achieving it. Perhaps he should take the worries he has about what he is doing, and what he ought to be, and make them the content of the role itself. He was very warmly received by the audience, so that should help.
breaking bad

Trivial whinge

This is a very silly post. A couple of women sitting behind us at the Hamlet matinee ate noisily for the full three and a half hours. WTF? I'm not overly sensitive to noise in the theatre. If the same amount of rustling and munching had been distributed among 100 people, the actual sound wouldn't have bothered me. It was just that after a couple of hours of listening to them eat, you felt like saying 'You can't still be hungry?'

One of our friends said afterwards you expected them to fire up a barbecue and start grilling themselves a few burgers. It was literally getting funny by the end, as they popped Pringles lids, and unwrapped toffees and scraped away at ice cream cartons. I don't know how they carried that much food with them.

Anyway, I assume the problem was that they had no interest in that silly business on the stage, so food was all that they had to get them through the long afternoon. I could have smacked 'em.

(ETA - my comment on the play itself is here)