The Marowitz Hamlet

Fri 4th – Wed 9th August 2017

reviews

Noah Lachs

at 23:48 on 4th Aug 2017

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“Nay, their endeavour keeps in the wonted pace: but there is, sir, an aery [nest] of children, little eyases [little eagles], that cry out on the top of questions, and are most tyrannically clapped for't: these are now the fashion.” The “fashion” Rosencrantz refers to in these lines is that of child actors. This became a threat to adult players in the seventeenth-century, who were undermined by this new taste among theatre-goers for “little eyases”. Thus it is fitting, if a little ironic, that this Marowitz Hamlet was performed by a cast whose collective age is probably close to the number of scenes in the play. It’s a bold move to perform full-length Hamlet at University; it’s bold verging on crazy to perform Marowitz’s thumbnail-version at High School level.

As to be expected with such a challenge, the results were not perfect. At times the play felt sliced and diced beyond comprehension, with chaotic scene and costume changes. Over-excited pacing sometimes drained crucial moments of their emotional intensity, and the bellowing roar of King Hamlet’s ghost did more to deafen the audience than spook it. The sound often felt random with clumsy fading, and the same can be said of the lighting, which changed the stage’s colour frequently and without much logic. Most importantly, the distinguishing premise of this adaptation of Marowitz’s script—which appeared to be the performance of Hamlet integrated with scenes of its rehearsal—was unclear and inconsistent. If you are unfamiliar with Hamlet, this version will make you even less familiar than you were at the start. It’s also not the play for you if you struggle not to cringe at Shakespeare done in American accents.

Criticisms aside, this very young group of actors have a lot to be proud of; the feat of learning Hamlet’s tongue-twisting lines, and performing them with confidence on a foreign stage is impressive on its own. In addition to this there were some deft moments and stagecraft. Despite the incongruous costumes of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with the rest of the cast, their introduction into the play is both comic and poignant. Hamlet grabs them both into affectionate, verging on violent headlocks reflecting the equivocation in the exchange of lines between Hamlet and his so-called friends. The scene in which Hamlet stabs the air sees each character drop dead, and subsequently erupt into a fit of laughter, respectively; this artistic and unnerving mass murder embodies the madness and cruelty of the play. The young Hamlet actor has clearly thought a lot about the physicality of his performance, and the actor playing Ophelia genuinely steals the stage in her hijacking of the “to be or not to be” speech. All in all, an ambitious effort with many faults, but the future is bright for these youngsters.

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Chloe Moloney

at 08:09 on 5th Aug 2017

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'The Marowitz Hamlet' is a brave and exploratory piece by a group of undoubtedly talented young actors. The premise of tackling Hamlet in a short space of time is no mean feat, and the ardour with which they approached the challenging text is admirable. Although, for an audience member who is not familiar with Hamlet there is a clear divide of comprehension. The original text has been slashed into jagged pieces which made the puzzle extraordinarily hard to put back together. For a play which claims to have been ‘inspiring awe, confusion, and rage’ since the sixties, the inability to comprehend any form of narrative immediately prevents the production from fulfilling its capabilities. However, the sheer gusto and fervent nature of this group shows an abundance of potential, yet with such a demand from this a young band of actors it cannot be expected to be of an outstanding calibre.

A predominant issue with 'The Marowitz Hamlet' is the pace. Despite it being an arduous task for such an abridged version in only forty minutes, more could certainly have been done to rein back the giddy pace at which the production ran. The hyperbolic and emotive core took precedence over plot, with clarity and expression deserving infinitely more attention. Words tripped over each other with the swelling excitement of the cast, losing their potency and delivery. A play which is stated to be performed with ‘furious energy’ certainly lived up to its claims, however an attempt to tone down the ferocity would do the production a great justice. Battle scenes were not fought with precision, and were unfortunately churned out to a soundtrack of screams, shouts and untimely laughter. The technical elements of the production were both basic and illogical, changing swiftly between block colours without much of a reason behind doing so. The staging was also fairly simple, primarily using black boxes and pieces of paper - however this definitely heralded the performance as a distinctly ‘high school’ production rather than something which adopts a professional tone.

The character of the ghost did little to frighten the audience, and the role of the ensemble was bewildering at times. On the other hand, the actor playing Hamlet stood out as an especially commendable actor, with evidence of thought and consideration for the role. His performance was remarkably smooth and polished for one so young, and in a play so choppy and broken. This production requires concentration on the crux of the play in its entirety and while 'The Marowitz Hamlet' undeniably has a host of faults, there is glittering hope for these actors in the years to come.

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Comments

Rachael Koske; 5th Aug 2017; 11:43:00

Thanks for the review! I'll note the frenetic pace and amateurish tone are what this show is aiming for - but it IS a dense journey!!

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