Theatre review

Rory Kinnear as Hamlet.
Rory Kinnear as Hamlet.
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National Theatre Live: Hamlet, shown at South Holland Centre, Spalding

Nothing changes much as far as human emotions are concerned.

Nasty, manipulative people: yes, we have probably all met at least one of those in our time.

Weak women who justify outrageous behaviour from men they are totally smitten by, perhaps using alcohol to blunt the worst pangs of shame: yes, those too we’ve possibly known.

And young-ish men, outraged by the behaviour of a more powerful man and bent on revenge, yet fearful too of the consequences of their actions: well, perhaps not exactly that, but we are all familiar with those types of emotions.

That’s the beauty of Shakespeare. His plays were written 400 years ago and are still as relevant to us today as they were to his first audiences.

So the people in Spalding’s South Holland Centre who saw the National Theatre’s production of Hamlet could easily relate to the human emotions portrayed.

To make it more relevant to our times, the Danish city of Elsinore, where Shakespeare based the play, was transformed into a surveillance state. Not so far fetched given all the phone hacking scandals in recent times.

It was Hamlet for out day in other ways: Hamlet, for instance, played brilliantly by Rory Kinnear, was an ordinary bloke who wore a T-shirt bearing the slogan “villain”.

Ophelia (Ruth Negga) was a modern women, first seen listening to loud music, and later, in her “mad” scene, pushing her belongings around in a supermarket trolley.

News crews popped up at all the key action; just what we expect to happen.

The only thing missing was Hamlet – or more likely Ophelia – tweeting about events in their lives.

It was a compelling performance that has received great reviews in the national press, particularly for Rory Kinnear, who brought a freshness and new understanding to so many of those familiar lines.

In Spalding, the auditorium appeared to be a little over half full, which was a missed opportunity to see great theatre.

It was long, at three-and-a-half hours, and possibly too long for many. I was enthralled, but started wriggling in my slightly squeaky seat before the end.

However, it can’t be said often enough: National Theatre Live performances are invariably quality theatre, without the hassle of travelling to London.