HiddleHamlet: A firsthand account (Part II)
It’s 5 days later and I’m still suffering from what @hiddleston81 calls the Hiddleston Hangover.
This second half is now days late, oops, so a lot of this has already been said by now, but I still want to record it for posterity. Fair warning, this post is going to be a disorganised mess of my thoughts - swinging between genuine observations about play/performance and completely shameless fangirling - so, the usual. That’s what you’re here for, right?!
Here are some more things I want to remember about Tom’s Hamlet:
Tom’s already much-discussed perfect hair was just like in the programme photo above, but at a few key points, one lock of hair would escape from the slicked back gorgeousness and fall over his forehead. Yes, that’s right - an errant curl. And somehow I’m still here to tell this tale.
Dancing. IT HAPPENS. Only for a minute, but it is glorious. The first entry of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern comes with a beats pill playing danceable music (Kendrick Lamar, I think?) and they all bust out a few moves. I gasped. Snake-hipping, y’all! In the middle of Hamlet! Bless you, Sir Kenneth Branagh.
There’s one bit where Hamlet dives underneath the carpet and tunnels along and then comically pops out the other side. Another where he gets excited and leaps on and then over the back of the couch. He wears facepaint and wraps himself in a Danish flag. He does silly voices on behalf of the skull in the “Alas, poor Yorick” scene (a Scottish accented one, even - swoon). Tom was such a playful Hamlet in these moments, delighting in being unhinged. I loved that he was let loose like this - he had these offhand chances to laugh and play, while still being clearly and primarily defined by his grief and fury. Those contradictions seemed so human. I think, more than anything, Tom’s Hamlet is the most relatable one I’ve seen (I mean, apart from those times when he gets all murdery. But you know.)
His anger and sadness, though, were harrowing to behold. The scene in the very beginning where Hamlet comes out onto a nearly dark stage to play piano and sing is haunting - his pain is palpable, and the entire audience was hanging on his every word and motion. It was like a shot straight to the heart to begin the production. I recall reading some review that slightly criticised him as “obviously not a singer” in this scene, and I agree that it wasn’t his usual standard of vocal performance, but I would venture that this was intentional. I thought he still sounded rather lovely, but his voice was imperfect, thin and cracking with grief. This is supposed to be Hamlet alone in his sorrow, not performing for anyone as he does in other scenes throughout the play. The moment feels incredibly authentic, illustrating perfectly Hamlet’s current frame of mind, and it sets the tone for Tom’s entire performance.
I kept becoming mesmerized by the little details of him - a consequence of him being so close, in the flesh. It was impossible not to focus in on his overwhelming physical presence. He was so lean, lithe and yet all muscles, with this energy radiating off of him every time he moved. I couldn’t stop noticing and trying to memorize every tiny thing about him. I could see the veins in his hands, the freckles on his forearms, the sheen of sweat under the curls at the back of his neck. The pattern of his stubble and the little muscle clench in his jaw (urrghhh) and the way his eyes shone with tears in the stage lights. JFC, is he a beautiful human.
In his first scene (after the piano one) when he turned to our side of the stage, he did lock eyes with me and held it for a second, so I think that might’ve been him registering recognition. There will never be any way to know for sure…which means I am of course just gonna go ahead and believe my version, because why the hell wouldn’t I. Tom totally recognised me - IT IS CANON - at least in my head, forever, the end.
He did that face-cupping thing that he does to Ophelia in the scene where they kiss. His long, beautiful fingers stroking her cheek. Fucker. And the way he was looking at her…well, you can imagine it. Hamlet’s love for Ophelia in this scene is tangible, and the whole thing made my insides melt completely. Sighhh.
Oh, also - he PICKS UP tiny Rosencrantz and twirls her all the way around his body. It is literally the cutest thing and I nearly choked on my own saliva for how badly I want this thing that I’d never even thought of before, being grabbed around the waist by Tom and swung entirely around his body. UM GIVE ME THAT PLEASE. They were pretty adorable together and caused @hiddleston81 to immediately start shipping them (I would’ve too if I were a shipper, but I’m only able to ship my real-life crushes with one person, and that’s meeee).
Hamlet and Horatia had great chemistry too - they really seemed like comfy best friends, but with a good degree of physical affection between them as well. Basically, Hamlet has sexual tension with every woman in this play. Or maybe I’m projecting.
Oh, let’s talk about the leather. It comes out right at the end, for the incredible fight scene. There’s the already-beloved leather jacket of course, but also - leather gloves. The time he spent putting on the gloves was probably only 20 seconds, but it seemed like a slo-mo 5 minutes in my head, with imaginary sexy music playing in the background (wee-wee-wowww). After he gets the gloves on, he immediately runs them through his hair to slick it back all the way, and it is maaaybe the hottest thing I’ve ever seen. I somehow didn’t burst into flames. Amazing.
Little tummy peeks happened a couple of times throughout the show, which were just too damn delicious for words. Again, he looked so good in his clothes! When on top of that, his shirt would occasionally ride up a bit over his tight, low-slung jeans and show that bit of skin, uhhh…heavenly powers, restore me.
Hamlet’s death scene is heartbreaking, obviously, and my eyes were full of tears. But still it was impossible not to notice that his shirt had ridden up again and his lower abs were on display, creating a complicated and weird mix of emotions, ie I am very sad but also extremely turned on, what is wrong with me?? He was also so close that you could see his chest rising and falling with his breathing, which is just so intimate, and I couldn’t stop drinking it in with my eyes. I never could take my eyes off him for a single second when he was onstage, even when the action would move elsewhere.
The older lady sitting beside me leaned over before it started and said, “Well, we couldn’t get any closer than this, could we?” and I thought, “Aw how nice, a sweet theatre-loving lady who wants to chat.” Then she said “Tom Hiddleston will be practically on top of us!!” and I thought “OH NO SHE’S A KINDRED SPIRIT.” This was proven true at the intermission when she asked me if I was “enjoying the view of Hiddleston’s butt.”
Me (in my head) I LOVE HER
Me: It’s like a chorus of angels singing in my ears.
Her: And his legs!!
Me (getting too worked up) HE’S SO LEGGY
Her: Have you seen The Night Manager?
Me: OH GIRL
One last thing. I know I got to be in Tom’s presence once already, in a completely astounding circumstance, but it was really special to be in the same room with him for this particular experience. I feel extremely grateful to have had the chance to be there, and do not take it at all for granted. His talent, charisma and grace as an actor shone in this role. He was utterly moving. He came alive on stage, and it was absolutely thrilling to witness. As someone who has seen all of his work and adored him from afar for years, this was something new. Being there with him, in this intimate setting, in his element…was beautiful. I’ll never forget it.