365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

38. One man’s trash…

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I have mixed feelings about Jude Law playing Hamlet. I think that he is a fine actor, very attractive, and I’m sure he is perfectly capable of handling Shakespeare (though I would much rather see him as a romantic lead, mainly because of the adorable factor). But on the other hand, and maybe this is just because I fell in love with Jeff Cole’s performance this past year as the same character, I’m just not sure I see Law as Hamlet. I can’t really put my finger on exactly why, but I tend to have okay instincts about people and what roles they are well-suited for, so I’m just going with my gut on this one.

Well, at least I’m not alone in my mixed feelings. The critics are too. One review called him “perhaps the only reason why this reverent revival of one of Shakespeare’s greatest plays is on Broadway” and said that he gave “a fresh interpretation” (though the same reviewer also claimed that the 37-year-old Law was one of the youngest actors to play the role…pray tell me where he got that information?). However, another article said “People who ask for a little introspection from the man whose name is a byword for that activity may find it perplexing that this Hamlet never seems to look inward, which means that he never grows up — or grows, period…If Hamlet talks about his mind, you can bet that Mr. Law will point to his forehead; when he mentions the heavens, his arm shoots straight up; and when the guy says his gorge rises, rest assured that he clutches at his stomach. If every actor were like Mr. Law, signed performances for the hard of hearing would be unnecessary.”

Ouch.

Now, I haven’t seen the show (nor will I, most likely. Stupid distance), so I don’t have my own opinion to throw into the ring. I could go on about how the first reviewer, the one from The Villager who liked him, is probably more correct than the negative review from the New York Times since in my experience, “official” reviews are only “right” half the time, while those from Joe Theatregoer tend to be more honest (obviously, there are exceptions). But I won’t.

It’s clear that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, especially when it comes to the arts. I may go see a show and think it is the stuff of brilliance and go back four more times and bring friends, while the guy sitting next to me may go and demand a refund. It’s so hard to really judge the theatre because of varying opinions from person to person. I think Shakespeare may be one of the more difficult playwrights to review, mainly because we often have such preconceived notions of what his plays should be like. We hear Romeo and Juliet, we want lush romance and heartbreaking tragedy. We hear Hamlet, we want philosophy and revenge. We hear A Midsummer Night’s Dream and there had better be fairy magic and a great catfight.

Yet because Shakespeare leaves so much room for interpretation and because it is always so tempting to go a new route with each play, it becomes very difficult to judge whether something is “good” or “bad”, or whether thinking makes it so.

See what I did there?

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Written by Caroline Mincks

November 7, 2009 at 10:26 PM

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