By Corinne Spisz, Integrated Language Arts major
On November 20, students and professors from the English, History, and Political Science departments traveled to the Cedar Lee Theatre, a historic movie theater in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. The department watched a filmed version of The National Theatre Live London’s Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. The running time of the film was three hours with a twenty-minute intermission. During intermission and on the way back to Ashland University, students and professors discussed the interpretation, the acting, and the relation of the performance to the written play. It was unanimous that Benedict Cumberbatch’s performance was extraordinary and emotional, and that he drew the audience into his performance. The rest of the cast performed well, but were overshadowed by Cumberbatch’s excellence. No one was really able to relate to the character of Ophelia, and yet no one was quite sure why. In terms of costume choices, the color of clothing that Hamlet wears changed throughout the play, representing his grief, insanity, and innocent death. Hamlet began to the play wearing dark clothing, and then alternated between red and black until the end of the performance when he was wearing white. Another interesting aspect of the play was the set design. Before intermission and after the completion of Claudius’ monologue, something that looked like dirt or dried leaves was blasted onto the stage.
In the second half of the play, both the inside and outside scenes were acted in this “dirt,” making the audience suspend its disbelief even further than normal. It added an interesting touch. The music options that the theater company chose made uncomfortable scenes even more uncomfortable because of its ominous tone. Another criticism was that the actors made some of the lines from the play funny, when those lines were not meant to be laughed at. There was too much comic relief in this interpretation for a Shakespeare tragedy, which made several of us unhappy and slightly uncomfortable. In some cases you had to laugh in order to stop the feeling of discomfort with the interpretation. Overall the play was fantastic and enjoyable with only a few criticisms.