In 2009 The Royal Shakespeare Company produced a television version of its 2008 stage production of Hamlet starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. The television version utilizes the camera very effectively in that the close-ups and back and forth shots work well to draw a television audience in. Watching a filmed stage play can be tedious, and this production alleviates that problem. While the actors speak in the iambic pentameter of the original play, they are dressed in modern clothes and employ the use of video surveillance and handheld digital cameras.
This three-hour television production follows the familiar story of the titular character seeking revenge against his uncle, Claudius, for killing his father and marrying his mother. It is the ghost of Hamlet’s father that tells Hamlet of his uncle’s treachery, proving a suspicion Hamlet already held. Hamlet then must prove to his mother and the Royal court that Claudius is a murderer and only seeks power. Claudius in turn wants to prove Hamlet has gone mad, and tries to distract Hamlet’s attentions toward him with the love of the beautiful Ophelia.
Patrick Stewart plays both Claudius and the ghost of the senior Hamlet. He does a fine job, and his background in Shakespeare and theater is obvious. He very nicely contrasts the two characters and makes the evil Claudius just that in his quiet deception. I also like David Tennant as Hamlet. He brings a lot of humor to the role and plays it with a looseness that I found to be quite refreshing. I found the modern clothes to be both amusing and distracting. At one point Hamlet is wearing an orange T-shirt with bodybuilder abs and pecs drawn on, blue jeans, and no shoes. On the one hand I liked the casual nature of the costumes, on the other I found myself thinking too much about what everyone was wearing.