How many Hamlets is enough? To go again, or not to go: that is the question. I decided recently not to see David Tennant's Hamlet, highly praised though it was, because I have seen so many other productions and know the play better than any other.
My first Hamlet was David Warner's famous 1965 Stratford performance. The last, if it was to be the last, was a remarkable and touching performance by Ben Whishaw, in Trevor Nunn's outstanding 2004 production at the Old Vic. Whishaw played Hamlet as a vulnerable, geeky teen, and while that removed some of the resonance from Hamlet's greatest rhetoric, it was one of the most plausible interpretations I've seen. Even so, I began to feel that the charm of Thespis may not last forever, and is perhaps felt most acutely by the young.
Is there still any reason, 40 years on, to see new productions of plays one knows and has often thought about in the past? With this in mind, I went rather uncertainly to see two plays I first saw in the '60s - Joe Orton's Loot, now at the Tricycle Theatre, and Twelfth Night at the Wyndham Theatre/Donmar West End. Quite apart from the effects of time on oneself, what about the effects of time on plays? I had always doubted that Twelfth Night had much resonance in the 20th century and now it is the 21st. I also suspected that even Orton might have lost some of his late '60s dazzle.