Hamlet, Wyndham's, London
Sister Act, Palladium, London
Arcadia, Duke of York's, London

Law's high-octane Hamlet for the new Shakespeare audience refuses to be spooked by the ghost of David Tennant

Can Jude Law succeed? It's a nerve-rackingly hard act to follow: playing the Prince of Denmark so soon after David Tennant's incisive, lionised take on the role. One West End Hamlet doth tread upon another's heel. But I'm inclined to say the more the merrier, if they're all as good as this.

Law's Prince is a human time bomb in Michael Grandage's new production. He stands, at first, in a shadowy corner of Elsinore's towering granite fortress, silently grieving over his father's death and his mother's marriage to his usurper-uncle. However, the moment Penelope Wilton's Gert-rude mildly questions his extended mourning, he snaps back, "I have that within that passes show" – his voice cracking. He has the dangerous intensity of an adolescent still. You can hear his emotional short fuse sizzling.

It does distract somewhat, having the Prince and his pals from Wittenberg looking like scruffy fashion models. Law sports tousled, out-of-bed hair and a deltoid-hugging T-shirt. Yet in another way, this muscularity makes a refreshing change. Here is no wavering wraith, but rather a distinctly physical, frustrated young man – a trained fighter as well as an intellectual – who could easily turn violent.

His hands, never still, dartingly express his every thought. Maybe this is a tad overdone. Given that the show is drawing so many newcomers, you wonder if Law has been asked to illustrate the meaning of Shakespeare's lexicon, like a constant accompanying mime show. Yet his Hamlet is vibrant and icon-like – gilded by crisscrossing shafts of light – as he clasps his forehead in despair, or as he turns his palms into snapping claws when sardonically naming his uncle-ensnaring play "The Mousetrap".

Furthermore, the way he suits the gesture to the word makes his philo-sophising lucid and impassioned. A feverish energy seems to surge from his fingertips as he delivers his soliloquies direct to the audience. These are startlingly intimate lectures, given on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

While verbally fencing, his aggression becomes increasingly concrete, too. He draws a knife more than once, threatening others or jabbing it towards his own wrist. Both Ophelia and Gertrude are manhandled, though his brutality alternates with cheek-cradling tenderness – echoed later in his stroking of Yorick's skull.

He pinions Penelope Wilton's Gertrude on the floor, as if he'd like to throttle her, in the closet scene which – with the hair-raising effect of a horror movie – we watch from the other side of the arras. This is a white gauze (set design by Christopher Oram), like a giant wedding veil-going-on-shroud, in which the stabbed, stumbling Polonius is soon netted.

Wilton is on superb form. Her screaming terror then brooding silence convey an entire dark journey into disillusionment. Ron Cook is outstanding, too, as Polonius: a petty bureaucrat, comically nervous with his superiors and only fitfully loving as a father.

But there are disappointing aspects to this production. Law has less quicksilver wit than Tennant. Gugu Mbatha -Raw isn't convincingly harrowed as the grief-maddened Ophelia. Adam Cork's soundtrack is also hit and miss, souping up Old Hamlet's ghost with hackneyed sci-fi rumblings, as if this production wanted to be a Hollywood movie. And maybe it will be. Grandage's Donmar-at-Wyndham's troupe certainly gives the Royal Shakespeare Company a run for its money, and the RSC has announced that its Tennant Hamlet is to be screened on BBC2.

Meanwhile, it's "Get thee to a nunnery" and then "Get on down" in Sister Act, the musical, newly adapted from the 1992 film which starred Whoopi Goldberg (who now turns co-producer).

This comic yarn – about Deloris, the brassy lounge singer, who's obliged to hole up in a convent and turns the nuns into a red-hot funky choir – is irresistibly enjoyable in parts, though the book, scripted by Cheri and Bill Steinkellner of Cheers, is surprisingly feeble, with a simplified plot and tiresome two-dimensional caricatures.

But, hey, Patina Miller's Deloris has brio and a belting voice. It's hard not to rejoice in this show's impish irreverence and in composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater's cheeky conversion of song genres. Deloris's suggestive nightclub number, "Take me to heaven", ends up transmogrified as a gospel hymn with the nuns wowing the Pope, up to their wimples in sequins and disco-dancing against a vast psychedelic rose window. Lord!

Finally, sustaining a delicate balance between love and loss, mortality and the ongoing cycles of life, two couples waltz into the darkness at the end of Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, one of the most exquisite plays of the 20th century.

Arcadia is an extraordinary kind of detective drama, set in an English country house where a trio of researchers – historic, literary and scientific, attracted and repelled, competing and cooperating – try to piece together the past from fragmentary clues and hypotheses.

With comic wit and great intellectual breadth, Stoppard weaves back and forth between 1809 and the modern day, uncovering an elaborate sex farce, mysterious marginalia, a mathematical girl-genius and a haunting romantic tragedy. On the way, he embraces lust, landscape gardening, iterated algorithms and the heat-death of the universe, all with a light touch.

Alas, David Leveaux's production, though contriving to defy Newtonian thermodynamics, takes ages to warm up. Newcomer Jessie Cave, playing the child genius Thomasina, and Dan Stevens, as her young tutor Septimus, never really sparkle. Neil Pearson gains some momentum as the bounding rake, Bernard. But most winningly, it's the actor Ed Stoppard (the playwright's son) who turns the modern-day mathematician Valentine, and his shy wooing of Samantha Bond's prickly Hannah, into the aching heart of his play.

'Hamlet' (0844 482 5120) to 22 Aug; 'Sister Act' (0844 412 2704) to 13 Feb 2010; 'Arcadia' (0870 060 6623) to 12 Sep

Arts and Entertainment
The crowd enjoy Latitude Festival 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment
'I do think a woman's place is eventually in the home, but I see no harm in her having some fun before she gets there.'

Is this the end of the Dowager Countess?tv
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Martin of Coldplay performs live for fans at Enmore Theatre on June 19, 2014 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith from The Office ten years on

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams prepares to enter the House of Black and White as Arya Stark in Game of Thrones season five

tv
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
music
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

opera
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn