Just a few random thoughts and pictures

Hamlet review, as promised…

As I promised when I mentioned I had tickets to see John Simm in Hamlet, I come bearing gifts, in the form of a review, which incidentally I got hubby to write for me to keep the fan-girling to a minimum, so although I agree with all he says, the following is all his own work…


At Dev’s (my other half) suggestion we recently took a trip to Sheffield some 40 miles away for a sample of culture. She had managed to acquire 2 tickets to see John Simm, John Nettles, Barbara Flynn & Michelle Dockery in a production of Hamlet at the Crucible Theatre which had recently reopened after a redesign. A previous production of this play starred David Tennant & Patrick Stewart; as a HUGE Doctor Who fan (and SF in general) this caught her interest. We watched the BBC’s recording of the Tennant/Stewart production and she was obviously curious as to how Tennant’s mate (and adversary in Doctor Who) would interpret the role.

Given that, at her own admission, Dev can be a little too much of a fangirl and may just gush too much over John Simm, she has asked ME to attempt to write a more balanced review. And now for my own admission; I am not by any means to be considered a theatre expert. Counting this production I have seen two plays… and BOTH of them have been Hamlet! At least that gives me a better frame of reference I suppose.

For those of you that have been to theatres before, The Crucible is unusual. It can be considered “theatre in the round” – the stage is surrounded on three sides by the audience, and stage entrances are often made through the audience, which is entertaining, surprising and draws the audience into the performance in ways that you probably wouldn’t see outside of a panto!

With regards to set design, lighting & wardrobe, this was a fairly modern style production with minimalist sets & few props. Atmospheric lighting and sound contributed greatly. Wardrobe consisted of, mainly, suits and army uniforms from around the turn of the century so things didn’t seem too modern but didn’t make the climactic sword duel seem out of place.

On to the performances. John Simm’s performance has received some adverse criticism in the more formal theatrical press and for the life of me I can’t see why. It was suggested that his speeches seemed more repeated than performed; that might have been the case at the start of the run but we saw him three nights from the end of the run so his performance was very natural.

Tim Delap deserves special mention in the role of Laertes. He was not originally cast – he replaced another actor at very short notice after an injury forced him to withdraw and had to learn the part and the fight choreography in less than two weeks. Although his voice seemed to be weakening through the play his performance was very good.

In supporting roles were Colin Tierney as Horatio, Michelle Dockery as Ophelia, Hugh Ross as Polonius & the Gravedigger, Barbara Flynn as Queen Gertrude and John Nettles as King Claudius & the Ghost, all of which performed admirably – some better than others. John Nettles & Barbara Flynn were returning to Shakespeare after a long absence; for Nettles it showed. His performance seemed a little to stilted to me. He was quite clearly ACTING rather than acting.

Dockery, Tierney & Flynn all did good jobs, but for me the standout was Hugh Ross as Polonius. In general the character is portrayed as quite stiff and serious. In Ross’ hands he was a clown! Although John Simm managed to inject some humour into his role, it was nothing compared to Ross. I thought it was fantastic and brought something new to the play. I have no idea if any other actor has done this in other productions but I found it fresh and original.

All in all what could have been a very tiring night (the performance was a little over three hours long and there was a 20 minute Q & A session with the cast afterwards) proved to be very entertaining and quite exhilarating.
I would recommend you go and see this while you can BUT as I type this the final performance is underway, so you’re all out of luck. I will say this, though; next time Dev suggests a night at the theatre I won’t hesitate to say yes… I just hope she picks a closer venue.

So there you have it. Huge thanks to hubby for writing that for me. If anyone is interesting in keeping up with his random thoughts on various topics, you can find him on Twitter here.


October 23, 2010 - Posted by | Picture Of The Day, Random Thoughts | ,


  1. I saw this play on their first night and was, overall, disappointed. In fairness, I couldn’t help but compare it to the RSC version which I’d seen in 2008, but even so I had rather hoped for something better from this cast.
    I’m glad to hear that John Simm has improved on his delivery, as I was one of many who felt that he was simply reciting his lines and didn’t have a full grasp of the character.
    I enjoyed Polonius (but preferred Oliver Ford Davies’ comic version) and Ophelia (preferred Michelle D to Mariah G), but found the rest of the cast to be lacking: I’d expect better performances from my local AmDram.

    What did you make of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

    Comment by helygen | October 23, 2010

    • having not been there that night I’ve no idea how good or bad they were, other than comments I’ve seen from you and others, but personally (and putting the fangirl in me aside for a moment) I thought John did a great job, so I can only assume he improved during the run. He seemed to have a good grasp of the character, and didn’t seem at all stilted, or as though he was reading rather than acting, which I think someone said.

      As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, they didn’t really leave a massive impression on me, either good or bad, but then I suppose that in itself is maybe a bad thing.

      Comment by develish1 | October 23, 2010

  2. I felt sure that JS would ‘grow into’ the role, so I’m really pleased to hear that this is the case 🙂

    Rosencrantz was played in a very odd way, imo (and foxyhlc agreed) – he had some very strange physical mannerisms going on – and I was just wondering if that had changed.
    Guildenstern was very stilted, and almost a straight man to Rosencrantz. I just didn’t like the way that the pair were played.

    Comment by helygen | October 23, 2010

    • I guess he must have, both me and hubby were impressed with his performance, some of his scenes with Polonius were particularly good, the banter between the two worked really well

      I can only guess Guildenstern and Rosencrantz toned it down somewhat then as I don’t recall anything strange about either of them, but then neither one really stood out that much either

      Comment by develish1 | October 23, 2010

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