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Tuesday, 9 August 2022

REVIEW: Hamlet at Ashton Hall, Saint Stephens at the Edinburgh Fringe

One of the most talked about shows leading up to the 75th Edinburgh Fringe Festival this year has undoubtedly been Peter Schaufuss’s concept ballet of Hamlet, starring the formidable Sir Ian McKellen. Directed and choreographed by Schaufuss, this 75-minute production is mostly dance-driven showcasing his company Edinburgh Festival Ballet except for selected monologues, McKellen as the titular character, recites. All in all, it is a very traditional retelling of one of Shakespeares' great tragedies with added novelties.

Two of the biggest questions surrounding the production have been how McKellen, who first took on Hamlet in 1971, will represent the young prince at 83 years of age and how he will interact with the dancers on stage. 

Tuesday, 22 February 2022

REVIEW: Hamlet by Guildford Shakespeare Company at the Holy Trinity Church, Guildford

Guildford Shakespeare Company returns to Holy Trinity Church – a beautiful setting for this new production of Hamlet directed by Tom Littler and starring award-winning actor Freddie Fox, who most recently won acclaim for his TV roles in The Crown and White House Farm.

The venue was an eerie and atmospheric home for Shakespeare’s masterpiece about a man trapped in a life he’s keen to leave behind. Mystery and tragedy combine, together with some flashes of modernity and comedy, in this great retelling in which Fox shines as the lead, Hamlet.

The small but perfectly formed company of ten combine brilliantly, with some multi-rolling to bring this story to life. The production has a slick and fast pace to it with the action moving seamlessly from one scene to the next. 

Thursday, 22 July 2021

REVIEW: Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor

Sir Ian McKellen has rightly been acclaimed as the greatest living British stage actor with an unenviable track record of success and compelling performances. We have watched him many times over the years from the ground-breaking Bent in 1979 and sat on stage in the Olivier for his Coriolanus in 1984 through more recently to his utterly enthralling King Lear at the Duke of York and his extraordinary one-man show On Stage that toured the country. There can be no doubting his love of performance, his energy, and his desire to entertain and move audiences. So, it was with a great deal of anticipation that we booked to see him return to Hamlet at the Theatre Royal Windsor on 'Freedom day', 19th July 2021.

Having been to several socially distanced indoor and outdoor shows over the last twelve months and enjoyed the extra space and reassurance of anti-Covid measures within the venues it came as something of an unpleasant shock to experience queuing to enter the venue for bag searches, queuing to have the tickets checked in the confined foyer space and a very full house (including an audience packed on the stage close to the performers) squeezed into the tight legroom of the Royal Stalls. And of course, that forgotten memory of those in the middle of the row being last to leave the bar before each act. Add to that the sweltering heat of the evening and one can’t help thinking we have the perfect condition for Jonathan Van Tam’s three C’s for Covid transmission. It was an added distraction to our enjoyment of the show, and one has to open that this production particularly with its 82-year-old star avoid the risk of closure that so many West End shows are suffering.

Monday, 22 February 2021

REVIEW: Hamlet - The Radio Play by The Melbourne Shakespeare Company in collaboration with The Victorian Theatre Companies

The world has seen and will see countless adaptations of Shakespear's catalogue of timeless plays. From traditional Elizabethan style productions to futuristic, technological or physical theatre interpretations, I am in constant awe of the new ideas artists can extract from the texts. However, the solely auditory experience of Melbourne Shakespeare Company in collaboration with The Victorian Theatre Companies radio production of Hamlet offers something more fundamental than a new interpretation of the play. Like a warm hug, be it one engrossed by blood and tragedy, it is a return to the purity of Shakespeare’s poetry. 

Set in medieval Denmark where the king has died, Hamlet Prince of Denmark is emphatic that his father has been murdered and shall, therefore, be revenged. A tale of paranoia, revenge and man's existence, Hamlet is considered by many to be Shakespeare's most powerful work. Being jam-packed with dark and atmospheric imagery also makes it perfect for a radio play. 

Under the direction of Kurtis Lowden and featuring a robust fabric of Melbourne performers, the entire ensemble understand the clarity, nuance and pacing required for the medium they have chosen to work with and offer a commanding performance. 

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

REVIEW: Hamlet at St Paul’s Church in Covent Garden

Hamlet is in many people's view one of Shakespeare's greatest plays and is oft produced. The temptation of companies and directors is to find some new take on the story to freshen its appeal and differentiate itself from other versions. Last week I saw Sh*t faced Shakespeare's take on the show with a Hamlet drunk on two thirds of a bottle of Tequila in Leicester Square. A few days later in the glorious setting of the actors church in Covent Garden we are presented with Iris Theatre's version. It is an open air show in the heart of the West End and the actors compete with the noise and crowds of the Covent Garden street performers in front of the church as well as the occasional screech of seagulls. It is a massive distraction in the opening scenes as we strain to hear the unamplified actors early lines.

The Director, Daniel Winder, then layers on an excess of video images on multiple screens dotted around the acting spaces as if surveillance cameras are in operation all around the dystopian future world in which he sets the production. Sometime the footage seems relevant like the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius or secret meetings behind closed doors but at other times it is bizarre and unfathomable and completely distracts from the poor actors struggling to put across the lengthy speeches. Even the BBC seems to be exist in this world as news comes from Broadcasting house. 

Saturday, 22 June 2019

REVIEW: Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet at the Leicester Square Theatre

Sh*t faced Shakespeare have been playing the stages of Fringe Theatres and festivals for over nine years and has honed the art of condensing the Bard's work into its seventy minute format (the first ten minutes seems to be a Health and Safety briefing to set up the context for the show)of the lowest common denominator nonsense. It attracts a different sort of audience to the usual West End Theatres being young couples and parties of twenty-somethings all with drinks in hand as they settle into their seats. They know what they have come for and lap up every silly moment of the action, presumably as a warm up before getting sh*t faced themselves.

The pre show video claims that the format has been seen by over 250,000 people. This was my first and only time. The success of the evening depends on:

Thursday, 31 August 2017

REVIEW: Hamlet at the Park 90

Gyles Brandreth has clearly had a lifelong passion for Shakespeare’s Hamlet and writes as he often does with passion and eloquence in the free programme for this production. It is a family affair with his own son playing Hamlet and his daughter in law playing Gertrude and Ophelia. He challenges the audience in his notes to think about their own family. Cut down from the original play into a continuous 90 minutes the editor, Imogen Bond and directors Simon Evans and David Aula, focus Hamlet’s loss of his parents.

Hamlet is Shakespeare longest play, at over 4000 lines and the edit removes all the characters with less than 100 lines and the Scandinavian political intrigue to fit within the 90 minute running time, the result is a fast paced family drama that explores the relationships between parents and their children. It is of course given an extra poignancy by the casting of three actors from same family.
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