Hamlet, Onassis and a country girl

Posted on: 23 October 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

Theatre critic Lawrence Green rounds up the best of theatreland's latest shows.



One man’s voracious appetite for sex, money and power was embodied in Greek multi-millionaire shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis.

He is perhaps best remembered today for his relationships with two of the world’s most famous women – Maria Callas and Jackie Kennedy. Now playwright Martin Sherman has attempted to illuminate the final years of his life in the bio-drama entitled simply Onassis (Novello Theatre), directed by Nancy Meckler.   

Read Lawrence's full review of Onassis at 50connect.    


Every actor worth his salt has one big ambition – to play Hamlet – as it is possibly the most demanding and complex role in the drama canon and marks the pinnacle of a stage career.

The latest to rise to the challenge is Rory Kinnear and he acquits himself magnificently in Nicholas Hytner’s masterly new modern production of Hamlet at the NT’s Olivier auditorium.

Shakespeare’s timeless tale of a Prince seeking revenge for his father’s murder by his uncle, who has then taken the throne and married Hamlet's mother, is a political drama as well as a play about the journey of an individual self. It holds up a mirror to a world of royalty, courtiers, politicians and ambassadors, not to mention such ordinary people as student, actors and gravediggers. Elsinore here is depicted as a society steeped in paranoia, a corrupt police state where surveillance is everywhere in the form of hidden microphones, tv cameras and eavesdropping security men lurking round every corner – even the Prince of Demark’s closest friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are ordered to spy on him.

Hytner’s gripping production, with the men dressed in sharp suits and ties like ominous city bankers or devious politicians, has many memorable scenes such as when the Ghost of Hamlet’s father appears as if from nowhere. Here, the Prince is unsure whether this is a devil sent to tempt him into evil action and when he is finally convinced that it is a genuine apparition at a play he stages by watching the reaction of Claudius, his treacherous uncle who has usurped the role of King of Denmark, he sets about getting his revenge.

Read Lawrence's full review of Hamlet at 50connect.

The Country Girl

Marriage, acting and alcoholism may not be interlinked but these are the issues which come under the spotlight in Clifford Odets’ 1954 backstage drama The Country Girl, which is revived in an absorbing new production directed by Rufus Norris at the Apollo Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue.      

This work, which was turned into an Oscar-winning film featuring Grace Kelly in her first screen role, and is the first production on the London stage for many years, has an emotional truth that makes us fully engaged with the characters, and also provides a moving depiction of the devastation wrought by alcohol. Although the play at times feels a bit underpowered, director Rufus Norris skilfully manages to combine dramatic tension with sudden shafts of wit. When asked why the play-within-a-play doesn’t get a top film star to play the title role, the producer replies ‘you would have to look in heaven, not Hollywood, to find him!’ The play is also funny in its portrayal of the crises and tantrums that occur in many a Broadway-bound production.

Read Lawrence's full review of The Country Girl at 50connect.

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