EFR - Reviews of Hamlet

Hamlet

Tue 5th – Sat 23rd August 2014

reviews

Ciaran Stordy

at 09:52 on 13th Aug 2014

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A greatly abridged version of the original, this production sought to cram in as much of the storyline as possible by rushing its cast. There was little pause between lines as Horatio Benjamin Aluwihare) and Laertes (Jordan Roberts-Laverty) stomped aroud shouting with arms flailing and spittle flying from their lips, while a wide-eyed Claudius (Peter Stanley) strove to avoid garbling his words. Polonius (Pedro Leandro) was the exception, and took his time in mulling over his part and, eyebrows raised in smug contentment, gloated at the audience with one palm flat against his chest. Similarly adept was the rendering of Ophelia by Isobel Moulder who, as her surroundings broke down into chaos, could only watch with worried eyes and protest in meek tones, “I think nothing, my lord”.

A significant result of the show’s hurried pace was that Hamlet – played by Olivier Huband – lacked sufficient space in which to develop the complexities of his character. Melancholy and madness are radically different forces, the one sluggish and the other wild, yet in the Danish prince they are brought together to produce the celebrated opiate that engrosses angst-ridden teenagers and highbrows alike. He is neither philosopher nor lunatic, he is both. Huband was not able to realise this fusion, instead he wandered on stage with heavy eyelids and drooping head as if he were depressed, or drunk.

The company suffered somewhat from a shortage in their number which forced some of them to play more than one role in only one costume. For example, Aluwihare tried desperately to harmonise Rosencrantz and Horatio in one body while Roberts-Laverty struggled to reconcile Laertes to Guildernstern! Neither was successful, but here reparations were made once again during the appearance of The Players when both of them leapt into third roles more deftly than their others.

The rushed cast found comfortable ground in a pantomime portrayal of The Players. Performing ‘The Murder of Gonzago’ before Claudius and Gertrude (Moulder), they became delightful clowns, sneaking poison into unsuspecting ears, pretending to beat each other up, and hopping with excitement. It was as if they were imbued with a raucous energy incongruous with the pensiveness inherent in the rest of Hamlet and I thoroughly enjoyed its momentary release.

Harried by haste, this show did not quite take off, though some individual performances and a pantomime interpretation of The Players offer footholds on an otherwise flat rock wall.

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Ben Hickey

at 10:04 on 13th Aug 2014

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At the Fringe this year the wealth of Hamlet shows, each promising an innovative take on the classic text, is immense. You can see a production set in an English mental hospital, a show which casts the protagonist as a private investigator and a piece which imagines Hamlet’s love affair with Ophelia before the narrative time of the play. It is somewhat refreshing, then, to see a rendering of Hamlet such as this one which is unashamedly cut-and-thrust, eschewing hi-jinks in favour of fast-paced storytelling.

Perhaps the unique selling point of this ‘Hamlet’ production is its frenetic pace. Watching such a dense play whistle by in the space of an hour proves to be exhilarating at first and exhausting by the end. The dialogue is delivered at a fierce speed which is perhaps a tonic to those who wish that Shakespeare would say what he has to say a little faster, but it is a method which doesn’t allow for the portent of each character’s words to land successfully. The accuracy with which the lines are delivered remains unerring throughout but it is hard to make the language your own when you dispose of it as fast as it is done here. It is only the delivery of Isobel Moulder in the dual role of Gertrude and Ophelia, peppered with near-imperceptible pauses and possessing a beguiling, lilting tone, which appears unrushed.

Most of the cast members flit between substantial and heavy roles. In some cases, such as the transition Moulder makes between the caustic Gertrude and the waifish Ophelia, this is a successful tactic but, as is the case with Peter Stanley’s juggling of Claudius and the ghost of the man Claudius kills, such changes can be disconcerting and destabilising. Olivier Huband’s execution of Hamlet’s lines tends towards the grandiose and pompous but his wild gesticulations certainly help to evoke the madness at the prince’s core. This production centers on the ‘incessant monitoring, infinite deception and increasing anxiety’ experienced by Hamlet and simple set choices such as characters lurking at the side of the stage throughout, ramping up the claustrophobia and paranoia, help stay true to this.

Previews for the show describe it as possessing a cutting contemporary edge but, aside from the unoffending polo shirts and slick suits, this is a resolutely classical interpretation of Shakespeare’s work. While it may not be breaking new ground and in spite of the problems associated with cutting the behemoth that is Hamlet down to an hour, this production is a reminder of how pacey and immediate interpretations of classic texts are still worth undertaking.

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