William Shakespeare: Hamlet, Almeida Theatre / Harold Pinter Theatre, London (Director: Robert Icke)
By Sascha Krieger
Oh, yes, there surely is something wrong in the state of Denmark. When Robert Icke’s celebrated production of Hamlet opens, we see: screens. TV footage from the late king’s funeral, later the new king smiling into the cameras, a multitude of CCTV images. Whether security or media: surveillance is everwhere in this production – as it is in the play. For, isn’t Hamlet a long succession of people spying on each other, hasn’t the royal court at Elsinore always been a surveillance state? So, transporting the story of the grieving prince, trying but failing to revenge his slain father, into an age in which the camera eye is always present, in which fear and attention are the twin driving forces leading to a society in which everyone is transparent as glass, feels rather logical. And Angus Wright’s nonchalantly plain Claudius is a perfect present-day ruler: agreeable enough, not a sore sight when smiling into the cameras, he’s an accomplished politician, slick, charming, an astute user of the media, a fine political instinct, a ruthless opportunist who knows how to play the fear card. He hardly ever gets loud, he doesn’t have to. He has the power to pull the strings and he does so in a chillingly efficient way.