Two years ago, I attended a preview performance of Hamlet at Middle Temple Hall. The production, which officially opened at the Globe on 23 April 2014, was a particularly special one: it was about to embark on a world tour, arriving back at the Globe in 2016.
Two years later, and Hamlet has been to 197 countries, delivering 293 performances at 202 venues. On Sunday 24 April, I went to see the production’s very last performance at the Globe, marking the end of a weekend of celebrations for the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare.
I originally said that this production of Hamlet wasn’t the best I had ever seen; perhaps it just needed some time to bed in, because last night I thought it was much improved. It was much more physical than any Hamlet I’ve seen before, and there was much more humour, probably for the benefit of international audiences who might not speak English. The acting was strong: I particularly liked Keith Bartlett’s Polonius, who gave the impression of a genial old man who, though a bit bumbling, is essentially kindhearted. Naeem Hayat played Hamlet, and brought a youthful, rather geeky quality to the role. The cast have each played a number of roles throughout the tour, presumably to prevent things getting stale, and I enjoyed the chance to see different people in the principal roles.
When the play ended, the crowd went wild. I have never heard applause like it. If the Globe had a roof, the cheering would have blown it off. The clapping grew even louder when outgoing Artistic Director Dominic Dromgoole took to the stage to make a short speech thanking everyone for their involvement in the production and with the Globe as a whole.
It was a poignant evening: the end of an era. I took one of the roses that had been thrown on to the stage as a memento. I sincerely hope that Emma Rice’s tenure of the Globe is as exciting and wonderful as the past decade has been.