Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Hamlet (Havana Theatre - 2010)

I love fresh interpretations of Shakespeare; it’s what keeps me interested, especially with something as well known as Hamlet. So I’m often impressed when a company makes a bold choice or uses dramatic staging and costumes. This play didn’t do that – instead they proved that you can make a play fresh by doing the small things very well.

This may be one of my favorite productions of Hamlet to date, and it was all in the details.  In a theatre the size of a railcar, with little set, and almost no costumes they created a fantastic Hamlet. The tiny theatre was draped in white fabric, isolating the audience and actors in their own strange world. The actors worked with the close quarters, integrating the audience and making them part of the action. Hamlet’s soliloquies are delivered in a pleading manner directly to the audience.  

Rhys Finnick’s Hamlet was younger and more vulnerable than any previous Hamlet I’ve seen. His Hamlet isn’t a mature philosopher; rather he is a confused young man who is overwhelmed by the task ahead. There were moments when you believed that Hamlet didn’t know his own motivation, but it played out as a young mans confusion, not a lack of understanding on the part of the actor.

Julie McIsaac was at turns feisty and heart-breaking as Ophelia, and brought wit and brains to the character in a way I’ve never seen before. Polonius (Simon Webb) managed to find a balance between humour, and actually being someone you could believe as the Kings advisor.  The play within a play was a highlight, full of over the top acting and overwrought gestures.

Each actor paid such attention to the lines, both their own and those of others. Throughout the play I had trouble deciding who I wanted to watch, their reactions to the lines were almost as good as the lines themselves. In addition the director had a number of the actors overlap their lines, adding a level of reality and a more conversational tone to a number of scenes.  Little touches and details made this play, and were what made it so excellent.

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