Hamlet: Swordplay the Serious Way
By Matt Wolf, theater critic and journalist in London, New York Times, July 2, 1995
LONDON— “A HIT, A VERY PALPABLE HIT!” cries the courtier Osric during the climactic duel of “Hamlet.” And in the Broadway production now at the Belasco Theater, those hits are palpable indeed.
Productions of “Hamlet” are often distinguished by verse speaking or physical design. Jonathan Kent’s current staging, imported from the Almeida Theater Company in London, offers an additional virtue in the face-off between Hamlet (played by Ralph Fiennes) and Laertes (Damian Lewis). Beginning on a white rectangular fencing mat, the fight soon spills beyond it, weaving among the chairs of Claudius’s dismayed court as the two combatants become increasingly fevered.
Lasting no more than four minutes or so, the duel leaves both the actors and the audience breathless; as Vincent Canby wrote in The New York Times, the sword fight “has an intensity seen more often in a swashbuckler than in a ‘Hamlet.’ ” It was choreographed by William Hobbs, the fight director.
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