Almeida Theatre, London – until 15 April 2017
Another year, another Hamlet. In recent times Benedict, David, Jude and Rory have joined the many actors who want to show us their Dane. The latest one is Andrew. Few actors are better suited to play this role than Andrew Scott. We all know and love his Moriarty from Sherlock, a brilliant modern interpretation of a great character from the past. This time, at the risk of repetition, it’s another brilliant modern interpretation of a great character from the past. He really does deliver a sensational performance, and it was rightly acclaimed by most of London’s critics last week (although some of us will wonder if The Times reviewer was watching a different show).
In the intimate surroundings of Islington’s Almeida Theatre, we are presented with a 2017 version of Denmark, complete with CCTV guarding Elsinore and rolling news covering events in Denmark. The modern setting is absolutely fitting with the times we are in now, as watching a Hamlet in 2017 it’s hard not to think about the Trumps. Both the White House and Elsinore are the home to a chaotic First Family living in splendid isolation, with a First Lady who must, deep down, despise her awful husband, and herself for marrying him. At least Melania has, for now at least, chosen to stay away from him in New York. Gertrude has made her bed and has to lie in it, albeit one with chic Scandinavian furnishings.
Juliet Stevenson, is, of course, predictably wonderful as Gertrude – one gentleman was overheard to say ‘that Queen is a bit of alright’ during the first of the two intervals. Angus Wright’s Claudius is a clever politician, a man of far greater cunning than the ridiculous Trump. He also has one of the best moments of the production when his reactions to the ‘play within the play’ are scrutinised by the TV cameras and broadcast live on the big screens. There’s also fine turns from Jessica Brown Findlay as Ophelia, Peter Wright as Polonius and Elliot Barnes-Worrell as Horatio.
But it is Andrew Scott who, rightly, dominates. His delivery is fresh and interesting. This is not one of those textbook Hamlets where you might find yourself drifting off, but a whole new proposition where you want to hear the words again, and not miss a moment of his stage time. Scott is every bit as compelling as a troubled Prince as he was as a criminal mastermind. In my view, this Hamlet is THE best show in London right now. Do what you can to get a ticket and you might just end up watching the best Hamlet you’ll ever see.