Cranky saw the National Theater’s production of Hamlet on Saturday. It was at the movies. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It was amazing. I will say it is probably one of the best portrayals of Hamlet in recorded history. It is though the only one I’ve seen outside of acting class, but I love a sweeping statement and I think this performance deserves one.
But first I must talk about the audience. I sat behind a compulsive shusher. I got the feeling that seeing Hamlet was such an epic experience in this man’s life that from the second he sat down he made himself the self-appointed noise monitor for the theater. We’re talking Brooklyn Academy of Music. You couldn’t possibly get a more respectful audience for Shakespeare on the screen than this group. All those Park Slope granola, food coop, lefties. If the man had seen it in The Court Street Theater where everyone talks back to the screen, he might have had an Ophelia madness scene of his own.
The first shush came while during the Coming Attractions when my friend and I were whispering back and forth. Freak. It is totally acceptable to talk during Coming Attractions. “I want to see that. Think I’ll skip that one. Love that actor.” Are things I feel compelled to say to whomever I’m with. His shush was the first warning shot that under no circumstances would any sound be tolerated. The shushing continued later when my friend went into her bag for a mint. When someone else whispered. When I got my scarf out of my bag. The denouement occurred after the intermission when Cranky came to her seat with a Kit Kat. I knew the Kit Kat was going to be a problem. But I needed the Kit Kat. The running time was three hours and since it was Saturday, Cranky hadn’t had a proper lunch because Saturday is Pilates day. So I’m in my seat. I need to eat the Kit Kat. I decide to just open the whole thing in one big tear instead of making a lot of little noises as I go. The second I open it, I get not only a SHUSH but a turn around. The Shusher is more annoying than the noises he is shushing. Why why why doesn’t he realize that? Cranky is tempted to lean forward and start coughing near him. But I didn’t do it. After sitting frozen in my seat for the next hour, I have to blow my nose. I really do. I gingerly pick my purse up off the floor and open it to get a tissue. I get a huge SHUSH!!! Cranky has now had it. “Pardon me I need to blow my nose!!? WTF?” I said. Crazy Shusher was then quiet for the rest of the show and we could concentrate on Elsinore. Where Mr. Cumberbatch was being an athletic/active Hamlet. No ponderous pondering . Though the issues of life and death are weighed throughout the play, it was done by attack not defense. The play was practically an athletic event. In a good way. Not one boring moment, nor a moment where the text isn’t clearly understood. Quite a feat. One of those great matches of role and actor. And the filming was a perfect balance of movie and play. Mr. Cumberbatch will be back on the National Theater screen in October in Frankenstein and that totally cute guy from The Night Manager – Tom Hiddleston, is in Corialanus running now. Check out the calendar: http://ntlive.nationaltheatre.org.uk/