Thursday, June 30, 2022

Hamlet at the Park Ave Armory

I will have to post pictures later (it hasn't officially opened yet - so no pictures). One of the amazing things that the Park Ave Armory does is stage many shows in a more immersive way with unique means because the Drill Hall is so damn big. That doesn't make a show automatically great, but makes it possible to open the show in large ways.

So I saw Hamlet there with Alex Lawther. You may (but may not) know him from the TV show "End of the Fucking World". As you can see, he looks very young. He's 27, but seems young and waifish. Even more so in person.

I have seen the show with Jude Law previously (and others, but Jude hops to the front of mind). Hamlet is a great tragedy of Shakespeare's.  And young Hamlet is a tortured and angry protagonist 

I will give a recap of the a small part of the show so the following makes sense. At its most basic, Hamlet is the young Prince of Denmark, his father (Old Hamlet) was the King. Old Hamlet's brother kills the King and marries his widow. Denmark, and Hamlet, are now ruled by his Uncle and his Mother. And Hamlet knows that his uncle killed his father.

With Jude Law, and many others, Hamlet is tortured, bitter and angry, but held back from revenge by circumstances and Hamlet's own self-doubt (and self-pity to be honest) from acting on his anger.

What young Alex Lawther brings is a younger, more ineffectual Hamlet. Still furious at his mother and hateful of his uncle, his youth and inexperience leave him to act out as a rebellious teenager calculating to annoy and frustrate his parents - just as much as he seeks revenge. Many older actors of Hamlet can seem like the main figure in an Oedipus Complex, actively fixated on his mother.

With Lawther as Hamlet here, his relationship with his mother is organic and real because of his youth. He no longer seems jealous of his Uncle / King / new step-father's marriage to his mother. Instead Hamlet is full of rage against his mother's own actions in this quick remarriage and his loss of her time and affection.

Hamlet is hurt and lashes out in a youthful teenage way at his mother as authority figure. And here the casting of Hamlet's mother works very well. Played by the extremely talented American, Jennifer Ehle, she has won two Tonys and yet still seems to posses the qualities of an undiscovered star. She is oldish and looks much more the mother than many actresses who are way too young to be Hamlet's mother. Here the mother / son relationship still keeps the dynamic of power tilted away from Hamlet. Don't get me wrong, she is lovely and amorous with her husband but you can believe she is the young prince's mother.

As for the play setting, it is still set in Denmark. But this, time a modern Denmark in scenes, clothes and technology. But the language is still Shakespeare - and like all Shakespeare takes a while to get into it. Even longer here with a crush of British accents from London's stage.

And this version is LONG. It is 3 hours and 40 minutes, with two intermissions. It was draining physically, but it did allow the pace of the play to be more natural. There are pauses where it makes sense. There are funny bits and sub-plots. These types of moments are usually cut out of Hamlet to bring it in around 2 hours. Here it was in its full glory, if a long time getting there. 

Anywho I liked it. I loved Hamlet, the Queen Gertrude and the usurper King Claudius - who was played by Angus Wright not as hateful as in many shows.

AND, this time Covid worked in my favor. The first show I was suppose to attend was moved. And the moved my ticket automatically. And then the afternoon show was cancelled so they moved my ticket to the evening show. But somehow, in all this, I got moved to better and better seats - probably because I was a single seat. Anyway, I sat centerstage, 3rd row. Amazing.

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