Lockdown London theatre walks: Hampstead Theatre - comedy conversions, velvet and Ben Whishaw
Review: Hymn, Almeida Theatre - brotherly love, eulogies and symbolic savings

Sunday theatre questions: Which play have you seen the most?

Theatre-land is a mixture of new plays and revivals, but there are certain classics which regularly get staged - which have you seen the most? Is there a particular reason why you've seen one play more than any others?

Which play have you seen the most

The hands-down winner for me is Hamlet. I think I've seen 17 or more different productions, but I confess it was less than literary reasons that got me hooked initially.

Yes, Hamlet was one of the set texts in my final year at Uni but that year also saw the release of a film version of Hamlet starring Mel Gibson.

He was one of my teen crushes so; naturally, I ran to the cinema to see it and then went back to see it again... and again.

I have no idea if it was well done - I wasn't really watching it for the play - but it helped me get really familiar with the key speeches. Handy when exam time came around.

The very first production

The first stage production of Hamlet I saw was on a student trip to Theatr Clwyd. It was memorable for several reasons no least because one of the actor's costumes caught fire  - it was all fine, quickly stamped out by another actor without even a pause in their speech.

But it wasn't until I saw it again years later - in 2008 - with David Tennant as Hamlet that it really sparked my interest/obsession. The speeches were still familiar, and the production just opened up the play in different ways.

And that's one of the reasons I keep going back to it. Every time I see Hamlet, there is something new, a new detail, a new perspective. Just thinking back to the variety of different productions I've seen - and settings.

It's also a cracking and rich story: murder, ghosts, madness, love, family, politics...

'Don't you know the story?'

When my mum was in a nursing home, she'd often ask me about the theatre I'd seen, mainly because she liked to hear the stories.

One visit when I told her I'd seen Hamlet she said: 'Haven't you seen that before?' When I replied 'Yes, many times' she said: 'But don't you know the story by now'.

How do you explain? Yes and no, but it's all in the interpretation.

Anyway, I've been back through the archives to pick out some of my favourites and most memorable Hamlets - and the one that was most disappointing.

RSC's starring Paapa Essiedu - This was a breath of fresh air for being a youthful Hamlet who genuinely felt like a student. Even the trailer was cool - showing Hamlet partying with his University friends then getting a phone call from home. It remains one of my all-time favourites.

Ben Whishaw, Old Vic - Technically I didn't see this live, I've only seen a recording in the V&A archive, but it made such a huge impression. It was a penny drop Hamlet for me for similar reasons to Paapa's; Hamlet was a teen struggling to deal with grief, his mother remarrying - and remarrying the man who murdered his father. Quite a lot to deal with for a young and fragile mind.

RSC's starring David Tennant - I still remember how I felt when I walked out of the theatre after seeing this.

Michael Sheen, Young Vic - set in a mental institution it pushed the idea of Hamlet being mad to the extreme - was Horatio his imaginary friend, seeing the ghost a psychotic episode?

Rory Kinnear, National Theatre - This was a cracking production that put a new spin on the world of Hamlet, cranking up the politics and setting it in a surveillance state. It also cast doubt on Ophelia's death being suicide and had Gertrude 'see' the ghost.

Adam Lawrence,  Riverside Studios - A brilliantly creative production set in a prison.

Andrew Scott, Almeida Theatre - Scott's performance of Hamlet made feel scared for him and of him.

And the one I was disappointed by?

I'm a huge fan of Tom Hiddleston, and I was stupidly excited when it was announced he was playing Hamlet as a fundraiser for RADA. I was even more excited when @PolyG and I got tickets.

Sadly director Kenneth Branagh had decided to approach the production as if it was being performed on a big West End stage rather than the intimate, in-the-round, performance space at RADA.

As a result, so many of the choices just clanged. Such an opportunity missed, I'm still angry about it, and I think the blame lies mostly with Branagh.

You can read my review here.