Prince who’s fit for a king: Paul Taylor reviews Hamlet at the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park
by Paul Taylor – The Independent –
There are some actors who approach the role of Hamlet via a rigorous apprenticeship in parts that have more than a smack of the Prince of Denmark: Konstantin in The Seagull, say, or Oswald in Ghosts. One such is Simon Russell Beale who is to play Hamlet, at long last, for Sam Mendes. At the opposite extreme are those actors who find themselves pitched in at the deep end early in their careers and prove that they can swim with precocious bravura.
At the Open Air Theatre, Regent’s Park, there is now an egregious example of this latter type in Damian Lewis, who tackles the role in Tim Piggott-Smith’s otherwise patchy production. Lewis has all the stage presence and captivating instincts of a Michael Sheen. Long-limbed, in a black bum-freezer jacket, he reminds you a little of a Dickensian hero.
The tragedy is played out on a set that looks like some giant piece of modernist garden sculpture, the Danish court imagined as a set of harsh metallic curves. Some of the staging ideas merely have the effect of emphasising the production’s weaknesses, so the fussy freeze- frame backdrops which Piggott-Smith contrives for all of Hamlet’s soliloquies, seem all too emblematic of the quality-in-balance generally evident – Lewis’s Hamlet intensely alive, the rest of the show relatively inert.
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