My blog has quite a lot of posts about Samuel West (Julius Caesar, On Chesil Beach and Darkest Hour) and Charles Edwards (My Fair Lady Australian tour and Henry IX).

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Samuel West - Theatre - Hamlet

[updated 19 March 2011]

Hamlet by William Shakespeare
RSC, directed by Steven Pimlott

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford: Previewed 31 March 2001, Opened 2 May 2001, Closed 13 October 2001
Barbican Theatre in London: Previewed 6 December 2001, Opened 11 December 2001, Closed 2 April 2002


Theater Pro
"...West looks every inch the Prince of Denmark as detailed in the text itself: slight of build (unlike Hercules) yet athletic, meeting the demands of the action that calls for a climactic fencing match at the end. From his hunched-up angry son chastising his mother in his first scene, through the soliloquies (all there) with their moods varying from despair to self-reproach, to sensitivity to others’ suffering in 'this harsh world,' to realizing that 'the readiness is all,' West is Hamlet. He has the nobility as well as the youth and the agility the text calls for, and he can deliver the language, with the right rhythm, inflection, and music, so that his speeches are not only clear but also stunning in their effect..."

Online Review London
"...This is a fine Hamlet. It is played with a just a touch of understatement by Samuel West, an actor so genetically crammed with talent that his slightest gesture is an essay in the craft he follows. His Hamlet is indeed unlike Hercules, is indeed intellectual and sicklied over by thought; he is Hamlet as he should be – a doubting, troubled, self-accusing, wretchedly sad, intelligent Hamlet, who nevertheless has princely parts, as shown by the swift and natural reappearance of the manner proper to his station when confronted by those who trespass too far upon it, and by his skill with the foil when at last fighting becomes necessary. When Ophelia laments the overthrow of the "courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword" one can believe of Samuel West's Hamlet that he is indeed such a prince..."

BBC News
"A strong performance from Samuel West as Hamlet...West's dynamic performance draws a fine rhetorical flourish from each soliloquy, which appear surprisingly fresh despite our familiarity with them..."

Curtain Up
"...Sam West as the prince, or heir apparent to the chairman of the board in this case, is immensely likeable... West speaks the lines well and naturally with many an original interpretative resonance. His is an intelligent, underplayed Hamlet, with his madness barely noticeable. West uses the players' Priam/Pyrrhus play to bring to the surface his own doubts about the murder necessitated by vengeance..."

The Express
"...There's nothing much ambiguous about Sam West's Hamlet. He's a sleeves-up sort of prince, gun-happy, striding purposefully about the stage like the action man he could have been. He's also funny and no slouch in the big speeches - delivered from the hip with passion in that beguiling voice of his which has adorned a thousand BBC documentries..."

The Guardian
"...West's Hamlet, the believer turned sceptic, is mesmerising..."

Middlebury Campus
"...Samuel West played a refreshingly vibrant Hamlet. He also did a remarkable job of creating two different personas for the prince: one who spoke directly with the audience and with characters he trusted, and one for situations where he felt called to put on his 'antic disposition'..."

Theatre Guide London
"There is much to like in the Royal Shakespeare Company's new Hamlet, and most of it is called Samuel West. The attractive young star gives an excitingly natural and contemporary feel to the Danish prince...it is West's contemporary student Hamlet who absolutely dominates our attention, with totally realistic behaviour and the striking ability to make the oft-heard lines sound as if newly thought of at the moment..."

Evening Mail
"Sam West is a captivatingly anarchic Hamlet... [he] brings a swaggering, mischievous edge to the role..."

The Observer
"Sam West has proved his admirers right. It's long been obvious to them that he would be a penetrating Hamlet. And he is. Sceptical and precise, continually turning his insights to his own disadvantage, he's always riveting - and sometimes chilling..."

Shakespeare Newsletter
"...the cornerstone of any production of Hamlet is its prince, and Samuel West is the ideal prince for this production...West does much more than capture the rootlessness and post-adolescent angst disturbing many contemporary young men. His Hamlet is confronted by metaphysical enigmas, tortured by his thwarted love for Ophelia, disturbed by guilt, betrayed by Gertrude, and stung by a sense of life's grim apparent absurdity. In other words, West is equal to the role and embodies much of its essence..."


whatsonstage.com (the websites Sam mentions in the interview have moved; The International Dialects of English Archive is here and The Surrey Stick Figure Theatre of Death is here)
Telegraph [link]
The Guardian "That Hamlet moment", 28 March 2001
The Independent "How Do I Look?", 14 April 2001
The Northern Echo "Let four captains bear Hamlet like a soldier to the stage", 11 October 2001
Evening Standard "The best in the West", 6 December 2001


RSC/Manuel Harlan 1|2|3|4|5|6
Lebrecht/Tristram Kenton. 00098623-00098642
Arenapal. arp1025767, arp1025769, arp1025772, arp1025774, arp1025777, arp1025778, arp1025779, arp1025780
Corbis. RJ002877
Photographers Direct 1|2|3|4|5|6|7


Dobson, Michael (ed.) (2006), Performing Shakespeare's Tragedies Today: The Actor's Perspective, 1st edn, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge. "Hamlet" (pp. 41-56) - the essay, which is very interesting, is an edited transcript of an interview with Sam conducted in 2001 by Abigail Rokison.
Independent on Sunday "Diction impossible - no accent too tough", 8 April 2001
The Telegraph "How to Play Hamlet", 28 April 2001


m4sure said...

Apart from Sam's performance as Leonard Bast in Howard's End, I think Hamlet was his greatest character to date. But then I am biased being a huge Hamlet fan. Not that I saw Sam play this role. Unfortunately it's one of my biggest regrets. He must of been outstanding to win awards for it.

jellybean said...

I haven't seen Howard's End :O the earliest Sam thing I've seen is Persuasion. Would have been amazing to see Sam in Hamlet, unfortunately I don't have access to a TARDIS... mind you even if I did I might end up somewhere that's not Stratford 2001!