The Victoria and Albert Museum (or the V&A) have shown a number of screenings of plays over the past two months in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP). The plays normally can’t be shown to the public (but it is possible to book a day to see them). However, for a few months the V&A have been able to screen them for free on a first come first served basis. I have been lucky enough to attend all my chosen screenings for the first half of the season: Hamlet, Hedda Gabler and Waiting for Godot.
Hamlet – Directed by Trevor Nunn at the Old Vic July 2004.
This version of William Shakespeare’s classic was different to the others I had seen previously (namely David Tennant and Michael Sheen’s performances). The play starred Ben Whishaw (The Hour, Perfume: The Story of a Murderer) and was directed by Trevor Nunn (Birdsong, The Tempest) who also introduced the play to us. It was the first to have an age appropriate Hamlet, he was just out of university, and showed his vulnerability and inevitable madness through the innocence of youth. This made the play rather interesting. Ben Whishaw played him rather well, with his vulnerable and easily-influenced manner. I enjoyed his performance very much, however I wasn’t as provoked by it as Michael Sheen’s. Additionally I did not feel as moved by the other actors’ performances to those in Tennant or Sheen’s adaptation. It seemed, to me at least, that Whishaw was the real strength of the play and that he easily outshone his co-actors. Thus it wasn’t as brilliant as I had hoped, but was still good.
Hedda Gabler – Directed by Richard Eyre at the Duke of York’s theatre July 2005.
Starring Eve Best (Nurse Jackie) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, War Horse), this screening had a very high turn out. This is undoubtedly due to the boom in attention for Cumberbatch, who has won the hearts of thousands thanks to his incredible performance as the famous sleuth. The play, however, was more about Eve Best’s performance than Cumberbatch’s. Her brutal character is a hard one to depict, and is not very likeable throughout the piece. However, Best pulled it off beautifully. By the end my attention was solely on her, although it must be said that the whole cast was unbelievably strong. I througholy enjoyed being swept away into Hedda Gabler’s manic world and am now rather impatient for ‘The Duchess of Malfi!
Waiting for Godot – Directed by Sean Mathias at the Theatre Royal Haymarket June 2009.
Starring Sir Ian Mckellen and Sir Patrick Stewart in the leading roles, with Simon Callow and Ronald Pickup in the supporting role. I knew that this would be an incredible play, having discussed it on many occasions with friends. We were very lucky to have Sean Mathias, the director, introduce the piece to us before we sat back and enjoyed the performance. Undoubtedly Mckellen and Stewart were a brilliant pair from the offset, they could so easily bounce off each other that their emotions were infectious throughout. The play tells the story of two homeless men waiting for Godot who will save them from their present lives. I felt that there was more to the story than meets the eye, first and foremost that we do not know anything about the mysterious Godot except that he will save the principle characters. Second, that, despite being disappointed that he never meets the two even after saying he surely will, the two never fail to return and wait. It was an interesting, hilarious and powerful performance on all accounts and was a very enjoyable and thought-provoking piece.
The V&A have just announced the second season of their screenings.
15 April: The Chalk Garden – starring Margaret Tyzack and Penelope Wilton.
22 April: A Midsummer Night’s Dream – directed by Tim Supple.
29 April: The Caucasian Chalk Circle – directed by Simon McBurney.
6 May: Look Back in Anger – starring Kitty Reilly and David Tennant.
27 May: Butley – starring Dominic West, Amanda Drew and Paul McGann.
3 June: A Number – starring Michael Gambon and Daniel Craig.
10 June: Tusk Tusk – directed by Jeremy Herrin.
17 June: The Riots – directed by Nicholas Kent.
Written by Roxy Simons.