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REVIEW ROUNDUP: Rory Kinnear, Clare Higgins, et al. Open in National Theatre's Hamlet logo
Rory Kinnear in Hamlet
(© Johan Persson)
Nicholas Hytner's production of Hamlet, starring Rory Kinnear in the title role, has opened in the National Theatre's Olivier Theatre. The production is currently booking through January 9.

Also starring in Shakespeare's classic play, about a young prince's attempts to navigate the world following his father's death, are Clare Higgins (Gertrude), Patrick Malahide (Claudius), David Calder (Polonius), James Laurenson (Ghost/Player King), and Ruth Negga (Ophelia), along with Matthew Barker, Jake Fairbrother, Ferdinand Kingsley, Alex Lanipekun, James Pearse, Saskia Portway, Victor Power, Prasanna Puwanarajah, Nick Sampson, Michael Sheldon, Leo Staar, Zara Tempest-Walters, Giles Terera, and Ellie Turner.

The creative team includes Vicki Mortimer (production design), Jon Clark (lighting design), Paul Groothuis (sound design), and Alex Baranowski (original music).

The reviews are out and critics are all praising Kinnear's work and finding much to laud in Higgins' as well as Hytner's modern-dress staging.

Among the reviews are:

Daily Telegraph
Hamlet, National Theatre, review
"The young Kinnear is nothing like as famous as his recent predecessors, but I would put him right up there with Tennant when it comes to capturing the humanity, humour, pain and multi-layered complexity of the role."

"He gives the impression of being an ordinary bloke, albeit a highly intelligent and sensitive one, placed in an impossible situation that threatens to overwhelm him. Frequently his voice is choked with grief, as if Kinnear is drawing on his own experience of losing a father, but there are also sharp shafts of wit and, in the final act, a deeply moving sense of hard-won spiritual serenity."

"Clare Higgins plays Gertrude as a sensual, raddled alcoholic, drinking to forget her own guilt, and her distress in the Oedipal closet-scene with Hamlet is deeply upsetting. Patrick Malahide's Claudius is a coldly calculating power politician without a hint of compassion or generosity about him, while David Calder memorably captures the busybody malignity as well as the humour of Polonius. Vicki Mortimer's palace designs are disappointingly bland, and don't allow the production to distinguish sufficiently between interior scenes and those set on the ramparts and in the graveyard. But this remains a constantly compelling, fresh-minted production, with many insights and original twists, while Kinnear proves a Hamlet of great individuality and distinction."

The Guardian
Hamlet - review
"At the Olivier director Nicholas Hytner offers a detailed political, social and psychological context to the action. And Kinnear's fine Hamlet gains enormously from Elsinore itself having such a hugely living presence."

"What I admire about Kinnear is that he pays scrupulous attention to language: one notices his prolonged pause when, trying out a speech before the players, he comes across the phrase "blood of fathers". But he also shows acute psychological development. This Hamlet, the reasonable man in a violent, irrational world, seems contaminated and coarsened by Claudius's Elsinore: he shrugs off the deaths of Polonius and his old student friends with a casualness that was not initially part of his character."

The Independent
First Night: Hamlet, National Theatre, London
"Kinnear shows a Hamlet whose depression can be seen in fits of unwarranted aggression, withdrawal, manic high-pitched laughter, intense unhappiness or simply desperate attempts to make sense of anything, as in the pure puzzlement that he puts across in the "to be or not to be" soliloquy, delivered while smoking a cigarette (a useful prop actually as inhaling and exhaling provide distinct pauses in which to contemplate the hereafter)."

"...special mention must be made of Clare Higgins's revelatory Gertrude. Predictably, this marvellous actress redefines the role. Gone is the weak, lovestruck, pliable and guilt-ridden mother and wife. This is more realistically a self-assured woman, who will have a drink when it suits her, is more than capable of barking out orders herself and knows exactly what she wants out of life."
"...[Kinnear] brings a mercurial quality, a mixture of ironic humour, anger, anguish and thoughtful intelligence which clearly chimes well with Hytner's fresh, detailed approach."

"The setting is a modern police state: there isn't a sword to be seen before the fatal fencing competition in Act V. Denmark's palace in Vicki Mortimer's design is grand but a hangover from another period and furnished with incongruously functional desks and comfortable sofas. And everywhere there are armed security guards and the trappings of surveillance, the modern equivalent of Elizabethan policed society."

"...this highly intelligent interpretation, with its emphasis on hypocrisy, theatricality and illusory truth, is one to celebrate."


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