REVIEW: Hamlet

PUBLISHED: 12:34 12 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010

Jude Law was memorably acted off the stage at the last attempt by a stunning debut from fresh-out-of-drama-school Eve Best in Tis Pity She s A Whore. A decade on and his empty emoting has matured

HAMLET

Wyndham's Theatre

near Leicester Square

Three stars

Jude Law was memorably acted off the stage at the last attempt by a stunning debut from fresh-out-of-drama-school Eve Best in 'Tis Pity She's A Whore.

A decade on and his empty emoting has matured into a confident mastery of Jacobean verse that delivers a charismatic, mercurial Dane.

Realistically, Law would never convince as an introspective, weedy student driven mad by his own dithering.

Inevitably, he is a commanding physical presence, tormented, grief-stricken, angry and unpredictably threatening to the point where you wonder why he doesn't just knife his murderous uncle in Act I.

In this sense, the quietly understated Penelope Wilton is miscast as Gertrude - and misclad in unflattering trouser suits.

All Hamlet's fevered imaginings of her bedroom antics with Claudius seem odd for a mumsy Gertrude more likely to make jam than passionate love.

Likewise, Law's lithe, sexy Hamlet has no chemistry with Gugu Mbatha-Raw's vocally weak, drippy Ophelia. (Note: childish singing and swivelling eyes do not madness make.)

It may lack moody, metaphysical angst, but Michael Grandage's intelligently pruned production offers a clarity and immediacy that reminds you what an exciting play it can be.

He creates memorable images - Law crouched downstage against a vast wall as snow falls in the To Be Or Not To Be speech, Polonius spying on Gertrude and Hamlet behind an upstage curtain that makes us peepers too and the white clad players enacting their dumbshow on a blinding white carpet.

Atmosphere is rendered in spades by Neil Austin's excellent lighting and Christopher Oram's oppressive castle/prison set - towering thick walls with openings that pour light onto the tormented humans below.

The acting space, however, is largely bare - there's literally nothing for Law to hide behind in theatre's most exposing role. Luckily, this time around, he's the best thing in it.

Until August 22.

Bridget Galton

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