Arts Review: Hamlet

Dir. Alasdair Hunter, Main Botanic Gardens, 3rd July- 12th July (excluding Sundays and Mondays)

Although Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, it is the comedic elements which shine in this production. John Love is an outstanding Polonious and gravedigger, while Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are a very endearing double-act. The melodramatic acting of the players contrasts perfectly with this subtle and thought provoking rendition of the much loved play.

As part of the Emerging Actors Scheme, Hamlet is produced in partnership with Wilderness of Tigers – a young theatre company who aims to train actors in Shakespeare. Many of the actors are recent graduates, however for their first year at Bard in the Botanics, they do not fail to impress.

The more serious elements are also well conveyed. Claudius, whose casual imperiousness switches to cold anger in an instant, is captured well by Jason Vaughn. The casting of Amy Conway as a female Horatio is a brave choice which works perfectly –definitely one to watch- and Ophelia’s madness is both gentle and heartbreaking.

The eponymous character is an extremely challenging role for any actor as he is intrinsically unlikable. Alan MacKenzie’s interactions with other characters are playful and intelligently acted, however his soliloquies often fall flat.  Despite a strong start, his depiction does not increase in intensity, with little distinction between his initial grief and his later perceived madness.

The lack of set and minimal use of props places the emphasis on the writing itself which was a refreshing change as Shakespeare often suffers from overcomplicated performances. However the mixture of modern and period clothes does not justify itself enough to avoid confusion. Without separation between the audience and the actors, an inclusive environment is created, with scenes often moving through or around spectators. There are also chances of sneak peaks at cleverly placed offstage moments by the players.

While the depth and complexities associated with the play are not reached, or exposed to their full potential, this is certainly an enjoyable performance whose humour is balanced with a mindful sensitivity.

[Lucy McCalister]

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