I saw Maxine Peake play Hamlet today, in a screening of Royal Exchange Theatre’s production.
It wasn’t cinema (though I was watching in a cinema), it wasn’t theatre (though it was filmed in a theatre).
The acting was superb. Peake was amazing – as were all the cast, actually.
It looked amazing – superb staging, and excellently captured on film. The way the set worked, and the lighting transformed the stage, was amazing.
It was way too long. I have long though Shakespeare needed an editor, and that was emphasised today – the first “half” came in at over two hours, the second at over an hour.
The strange way that Shakespearian language works by osmosis – if you stop and ask “what was just said?”, you can’t answer, but you know the meaning, if not the words – was the same as in the theatre.
I have not been to any stage production in the cinema before, and I’m not sure if it wholly works. Theatre demands more attention than cinema; cinema works in a different way. One’s “willing suspension of disbelief” is far greater in the theatre, and it took longer for that magic to work, watching the theatre in a cinema.
Peake was totally convincing as Hamlet. The rest of the cast were switched in terms of gender, too, and that was fine – completely irrelevant. Race too. It didn’t matter – the acting made it completely believable.
All in all, a very good way of watching a performance I would otherwise not be able to see. But neither theatre nor cinema – instead a kind of bastard hybrid, that works to the strength of neither medium.
And Maxine Peake is wonderful, and inhabited the role of Hamlet totally.