To Be, or Not to Be… a Mime: Jude Law as Hamlet

Before he took the London stage in the Donmar company production of Hamlet — which opened for a limited engagement this week on Broadway — Jude Law told a reporter, “Hamlet is ‘a bit like a great song that’s been covered by a load of different singers.'” So what do the critics on this side of the pond think of his performance? Well, he’s not exactly Cat Power, but he’s not Michael Bolton either. The general consensus: he looks great. He just needs to cool it with the miming.

“If the verse includes an allusion to heaven, you can bet Law will point to the sky. If Hamlet makes a reference to a jungle animal, sure as shootin’ Law turns into one. For every action of any other actor on the stage, he supplies four, and he never stops gesticulating. Is the idea here that Law’s Hamlet thinks all the world’s a college stage?” – Peter Marks, [via WaPo]

“Of course, the main attraction is Law’s Hamlet, and like the production as a whole, his performance is a mixed bag — in some ways impressive, in others distancing. His is less the brooding prince than the Extremely Pissed-Off one. The majority of his lines are spat out in passionate anger or disgust, sustaining a level of intensity that becomes wearing. Likewise the actor’s emphatic gesticulation, which frequently seems more studied for illustrative effect than the result of internal characterization.” – David Rooney [via Variety]

“So we get a jack-in-the-box Hamlet, often violently restrained by others from rash action, or lifted up by them and swung like a human pendulum; or yet one who, if the text contains the word “ape,” lustily replicates the gait of a baboon. Such is Law’s charm that he gets away with a fair amount of this nonsense; his energized and kinetic readings of the soliloquies are, at times, rather welcome.” – John Simon [via Bloomberg]

Play us out with the zinger, Ben Brantley: “If Hamlet talks about his mind, you can bet that Mr. Law will point to his forehead; when he mentions the heavens, his arm shoots straight up; and when the guy says his gorge rises, rest assured that he clutches at his stomach. If every actor were like Mr. Law, signed performances for the hard of hearing would be unnecessary.” – Ben Brantley [via NYT]

Maybe he’s just worried Americans can’t understand Shakespeare.

Have you seen Hamlet yet? If so, do you agree?