Jamie Parker stars as the Prince of Denmark in this brand-new BBC Radio 4 full-cast production.
At the Castle of Elsinore in Denmark, the court is uneasy. The king of Denmark has recently died and the throne has been claimed by the king's brother, Claudius. Prince Hamlet, still in mourning for his father, distrusts Claudius and believes that what has happened at the court 'cannot come to good’. The ghost of his father has told him he was murdered by Claudius. Can it be true? He arranges for a troupe of players to emulate such a murder before the court, in the hope that the truth will out.
As circumstances play out, and Hamlet is variously counselled and challenged by the King and Queen, Laertes, Polonius, Ophelia, and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the fabric of the court starts to unravel. Soon Hamlet’s indecision leads to a series of tragic events - and to what end?
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Jamie Parker is an excellent Hamlet, and the production as a whole is certainly one of the best audio productions around. Haunting music, thrilling sound effects, and a strong cast - most of the actors were unknown to me - make this a winner and a keeper.
It was originally designed for radio, and the recording preserves that aspect: there are 5 segments, each roughly 40 minutes long, and each has its own introduction and closing credits. The text has been shortened, but there have been no great gouging cuts: all the scenes are here, only a few lines trimmed here and there.
There is one odd change. There are three early printed texts of Hamlet, and one of them puts the "to be or not to be" soliloquy in a completely different location in the script from the "standard" position. This production, unlike any I've seen before, places the speech in yet a third location. It works, but it was unexpected, and I remain somewhat puzzled about the reason for the change.
Despite this one oddity, Parker's performance is vigorous and engaging and captures well the range of emotions projected by Hamlet in the course of the play. It's a performance I will enjoy listening to many times. I'm writing this review partly to savor it - and the three-dimensional world created by the sound design, and the wonderful music - for just a few minutes longer.
I would go so far as to say that if you haven't heard a production of Hamlet and you're trying to decide which one to get, give this one a try. It's not 100% of the lines - more like 85% - the cuts are intelligent and unobtrusive, and you'll find yourself getting caught up in the story more than with some of the other audio productions available. And it ends with Fortinbras on the throne.
"This is the excellent foppery of the world"
Yup. Got some good Shakespeare in it.
Other Shakespeare stuff.
Mouthwords for your face-ears.
This is the excellent foppery of the world that when we are sick in fortune—often the surfeit of our own behavior—we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars, as if we were villains by necessity, fools by heavenly compulsion, knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical predominance, drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforced obedience of planetary influence, and all that we are evil in by a divine thrusting-on. An admirable evasion of whoremaster man, to lay his goatish disposition to the charge of a star!
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