Sunday, June 07, 2009

A Tale of Two Hamlets (where only one counts, apparently)

Did anyone else catch Radio 4's Saturday Review last night (Saturday 6 June 2009)? They reviewed the current Jude Law production of Hamlet, on at the Donmar West End - very favourably as it happens (fair play to them: though I must lay my cards on the table and acknowledge I pretty much don't get Jude Law's appeal*).

Inevitably, given the debate about 'celebrity casting' they mentioned David Tennant's recent take on the role. (I'm personally of the opinion you have to take each Hamlet on their own terms, more or less. Case in point: the brilliance - and difference - of Ed Bennett as Hamlet last winter).

But what's this the Saturday Review team say? [I think this is correct from listening back to the iPlayer]
"... if only David Tennant hadn't done his brief series of appearances as Hamlet at the start of the year then everyone would be able to see what a brilliant Hamlet he [Jude Law] is..."
WHAT?!!! WHAT????!!!!

I'm sorry but I rather lost the plot at that point and spent much of the remainder of the review shouting at the radio - because at no point was it obvious that the criteria by which they were reviewing Law's Hamlet was that of performing in London. Front Row -- Saturday Review's weekday sibling -- had quite happily reviewed the RSC Stratford production of Hamlet AND then the London run (with Bennett having taken over from Press Night onwards until that fateful Saturday when that lucky bitch my best friend H attended). So why did this review make it seem as if Tennant had simply failed to bother actually doing Hamlet? He did Hamlet in Stratford for FIVE FREAKIN' MONTHS!!!! Doing performances pretty much every day and THEN adding in his adorable turn as Berowne on top for the last 6/7 weeks of the Stratford run!

Gah. Must learn to not get so agitated.

Don't get me wrong, I'm perfectly happy to accept reviews make comparisons between performances, but they surely have to acknowledge some level of context and for me this came dangerously close to a mean-spirited distortion of theatre history. I get the point (grumble grumble nonetheless) that the Olivier Awards are about London stage performances and that by virtue of his absence after the preview performances until the final week of the run, Tennant could not be considered for that award's glory. But reviewing is another matter entirely: all they had to do to make their comments last night legitimate (if remaining narrow-minded) was to add in the phrase "in London" (so it would remarked on Tennant's "brief series of of appearances as Hamlet in London at the start of the year..." and I would have been mollified.


Rant over.

* I could cope with Gattaca - good film, Ethan Hawke for the 'pretty' appealing to me; and I thought Law gamely sent up his own shallowness in I Heart Huckabees. Otherwise: mostly meh.


Persephone said...

Jude Law is a little too pretty for my tastes, but I have no difficulty in believing he could pull off Hamlet. Have you seen him in The Road to Perdition? He was rather good in that and definitely playing against type.

Are you sure the Saturday Review team weren't just trying to pull your leg?

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Oh yeah, I had forgot The Road to Perdition - he was nasty in that wasn't he? (That's a compliment btw!)

Sadly though the Saturday Review team were NOT leg-pulling. The remark was delivered deadpan, statement of fact stylee. *sigh*

I know what you mean about 'pretty': I'm not sure what it is but some blokes just don't press my button (that sounds much ruder written down). Brad Pitt: equally meh to me (I've liked him best as the stoner in True Romance and the thieving pretty boy in Thelma and Louise).

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Oh, and I to have no doubt he would make a very good Hamlet. That wasn't intended to be my point, before any Jude Law fans accuse me of not giving his acting a chance. But if Saturday Review are banging on about Law 'bringing in a new audience' (which they also said) then pretending that Tennant didn't do that at Stratford - or London - already is just mean-spirited.

Jane Henry said...

Hearing comments like that always always make me ashamed to be a Londoner, albeit one who's moved out of the big smoke (I'll consider myself one till the day I die...) I just don't get why they do that ignorant thing of forgetting that London does not the whole country represent.

I rather liked Jude Law as the robot in AI, and also as the Yank (perimenopausal moment as I forget his name again) in The Talented Mr Ripley. Oh and he is wonderful in The Holiday. I could quite see why Cameron Diaz fell in love with him. Might have been swayed by personal circs there as have friend who lost his first wife to cancer and was left with small child, so it rang lots of bells, but the way JL was with the kids made me think for all his faults he is probably a great dad. But yes, he is very pretty...

JoeinVegas said...

Agree with Jane, he was rather amusing in AI.