Hamlet in Jude Law’s hands : conquering Broadway…

Michael Grandage’s Hamlet has been running full house every night for already three months, at the Donmar Theatre. Shakespeare’s most complex character is played by Jude Law, back on stage after several years dedicated to cinema.


One might think that the British actor isn’t familiar to stage acting but he is. Indeed, he started his theatre career with several complex parts such as Dr Faustus, Don Giovanni in Tis Pity She’s a Whore or in Les parents terribles. Ecclectism and demand which explain perfectly well the actor’s incredible acting and self control.

Jude Law carries the play. Hamlet is on stage from begining to end. His monologues are numerous and famous. Jude Law’s incredible creative achievement helps him sculpt the text bringing out beauty and simplicity out of it.

What is most impressive is the continuous movement of Hamlet’s hands. They help supporting his speech in irony as well as in his most tragic state. They also reveal the complexity and ambiguity of a character thirsty for revenge, simulating madness. Therefore, the continuous movement of his hands tend to remind us that Hamlet likes to be in control of other people’s lives but also that he is fate’s puppet. The play within the play illustrates it too.

Shakespeare at the West End

The character’s body language also demonstrates a tormented character, he moves about rapidly and fluidily through the massive blocks used for the set. There is a strong physical relationship to the part, there is also an echo to dance by the fluidity of Jude Law’s movements. Which comes in total opposition to the other characters’ who are stiffer. Hamlet is here the detonator and Shakespeare’s choice of words for this incredible character and his presence helps the great actor bringing Hamlet to life.

The director, numerously awarded, is a Shakespearian specialist. He is here the author of a simple yet effective ‘mise en scène’, which brings out the strengths of the text as well as the use of the music which outlines the magical dimension of this great moment of theatre.

The actors wear everyday clothes, they walk around barefoot in a dark and timeless space. This tragedy takes place in 2009. Shakespeare is in the West End, this London district which is the home for the greatest London theatres.

Michael Grandage’s work is to value, as he chose to work on Shakespeare’s most difficult play in a simple and sober ‘mise en scène’ yet extremely effective. This new Hamlet version manages to reconcile the public and the critic illustrated by the triumph at the end of the play.

Laetitia Heurteau (London)


At the Wyndham’s Theatre, London, from the 29th, May to the 22nd, August 2009.
In Broadway, at the Broadhurst Theatre, from the 12th, September. For three months.
Directed by Michael Grandage

Text translated by Tess Tracy.

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