If there’s anything that could make a bigger splash than the news that Britain’s National Theatre is doing “Hamlet,” it’s the announcement that Benedict Cumberbatch is in the title role.
Yes, the icon of stage and screen himself is cast as the tragic Prince of Denmark in Shakespeare’s most celebrated work. Although Cumberbatch already has played such demanding parts as Sherlock Holmes, Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing and Frankenstein, it is said that no actor’s career is complete without tackling this formidable role.
“Hamlet,” of course, is “known of” by millions of people who have never actually seen a production of the play and by millions more who have. While the NT production will be running at London’s Barbican through the end of the month, we’ll have just two opportunities to see the NT Live telecast at the Douglass Theatre. This classic opens at 7 p.m. Thursday night and will be screened again at 3 p.m. Oct. 18. The last time that Cumberbatch was on the screen at the Douglass, devotees flocked here from around the state.
In the current production of “Hamlet,” done in modern dress, Shakespeare’s chronology has been somewhat rearranged, but the dilemma at the heart of the play remains: While Hamlet has been away at college, his father has suddenly died and, by the time young Hamlet has returned home, his mother is literally in bed with his uncle. What to do? This decision precipitates a process of soul-searching thought to be unequalled.
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As Hamlet grapples with the question of whether to “take arms against a sea of troubles,” dozens more of Shakespeare’s best-known lines emerge, including “to thine own self be true” and “O! Woe is me.”
In the person of Hamlet, we watch someone not unlike ourselves struggle with a majestical world that can yet seem “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable.”
Lovers of theater and language alike, get thee to the box office at the Douglass. “Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished.”
NT Live: “Hamlet”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 15 and 3 p.m. Oct. 18
Where: Douglass Theatre, 355 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Cost: $20 adults, $15 students and seniors