Hamlet REVIEW: Cush Jumbo is a star in the wrong production

The good news is that Jumbo is very good as a shaven-headed, androgynous Hamlet; the bad news is that she is in the wrong production. Director Greg Hersov has little idea about what to do with the play or the characters surrounding the Great Dane.

Following in the slipstream of Ian McKellen’s riotously all-over-the-place production, this suffers similar problems of lack of purpose and woolly concept. 

It is set in the present day ‑ suits, mobile phones and automatic weapons ‑ yet has no real sense of place either geographically or politically.

The set is a series of peeling mirrored monoliths designed to deliver ghostly reflections of the characters. It’s a nice idea but what is the point if most of the appearances of Hamlet’s father occur unseen behind the heads of the audience? “He’s behind you!” “Oh no he’s not!”

Among the cast, Norah Lopez Holden is a fresh-faced and credibly innocent Ophelia, Joseph Marcell is a wonderfully pedantic Polonius and Jonathan Livingstone an affectingly affable Horatio.

But, oh dear, what happened to Adrian Dunbar and Tara Fitzgerald? 

Fine actors both, their Claudius and Gertrude double act has very little traction on stage. 

Dunbar seems more like an underhanded bank manager than a scheming Machiavel who murders his brother to get his hands on his sister-in-law and the crown of Denmark. 

Hersov’s staging is flat and listless, leaching the play of high drama and, ultimately, its tragedy. What a pity.

Hamlet is at the Young Vic until November 13

TICKETS: 020 7922 2922 or at


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