Half a century ago this week, we reviewed the opening of Trevor Nunn’s production of Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, starring Alan Howard and Helen Mirren. Nunn had been appointed artistic director of the RSC two years before and would remain in the post until 1986.
Our critic reported: “Nunn’s production… springs from a concept of considerable and imaginative daring. For Mr Nunn has presented Hamlet’s nightmare of a problem as just that – a dream sequence in which persons and actions and events take on a symbolic as well as a realistic significance. It is a concept of the play which convincingly combines the 16th century’s instinct to dramatise violence with the 20th century’s instinct to psycholanalyse it.
“In time, Alan Howard’s performance as Hamlet should become remarkably compelling: at the moment it is more than competent in concept but hesitant in execution, and therefore remote… Helen Mirren’s Ophelia is lively, and most moving as she sings with Laertes to her lute both in health and madness.”
Nunn would not direct Hamlet again until 2004, when he famously cast the then 23-year-old Ben Whishaw in the title role of a production at the Old Vic in London.
For more from The Stage Archive, visit thestage.co.uk/archive