Review: Hamlet

November 17, 2011
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Young Vic, London SE1

This is not the first time that Hamlet has been given a Freudian makeover. But, for much of this enthralling production, you wonder if director Ian Rickson is as bonkers as Michael Sheen's unforgettable Danish prince. The play's theme of insanity, and Shakespeare's repeated use of the word "mad", is driven home even before we enter the auditorium.

We go in from the back of the theatre while the staff of a secure hospital watch us as if we are the latest intake. Once inside, it is revealed that Jeremy Herbert's design of Elsinore could double as the set for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. It is suggested that King Claudius runs the place; that Polonious is, in fact, a clinician, and that the play is populated not by royalty but by mental patients.

We soon see that Sheen's Hamlet is unbalanced when it is the Prince himself who appears as his father's ghost.

How long can Rickson's conceit last before it all falls apart? Surely not for the length of the play? Yet, just as it all appears to unravel, there is a final flourish that makes stunning sense of all that has gone before. This Hamlet takes you places no Hamlet has gone before. Purists will hate it, the adventurous will love it, and Sheen is brilliant.

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    Last updated: 11:23am, November 17 2011