Stratford Upon Avon
Hamlet: William Shakespeare
RSC: RST, Stratford Upon Avon, to 13 August 2016
Runs: 3h, 20m, one interval, to
Tkts: 0844 800 1110
Review: Alexander Ray Edser, 28 March 2016
Energetic, refreshing, illuminating
This is an excellent production – youthful, energetic and atmospheric, and crystal clear. That it’s almost entirely a black cast is relevant only in that the story now takes place in, what would appear to be the West Indies.
The thing that strikes you immediately is how toweringly good Paapa Essiedu is as Hamlet. He seems young, which gives him great vulnerability. He can reach depths of despair and heights of passion with great ease, yet it never seems false nor forced. He clearly understands every word he speaks, yet every word seems fresh, even the well-known and often heard passages. Essiedu invests much in those around him, and the effect is of a domestic tragedy; it may be worked out in public, but it is essentially a private affair. And in his long speeches of direct address Essiedu draws us into his world and his increasing turmoil.
Gertrude (Tanya Moodie) has status, but we sense the strength of the human being who embodies it. Claudius (Clarence Smith) is clearly a man who tries to handle his ill-gotten position, but who never really, try as he might, gets to grips with it.
This is a strong company. Particularly worth noting is Hiran Abeysekera’s Horatio. Fresh light is shone on his relationship with Hamlet; Horatio is someone Hamlet can trust because he is not part of the court – he seems to be a palace handyman. The simplicity with which he announces that he is the vehicle of truth at the end is truly moving.
Simon Godwin has orchestrated a fine production; minute by minute he reveals elements afresh. It all moves at a great pace within Paul Wills’s sparse settings. And the atmosphere is greatly enhanced with a superb percussive score from Sola Akingbola.
Horatio: Hiran Abeysekera
Osric: Romayne Andrews
Player Queen: Doreene Blackstock
Voltimand: Eke Chukwu
Rosencrantz: James Cooney
Guildenstern: Bethan Cullinane
Cornelia / Player: Marieme Diof
Hamlet: Paapa Essiedu
Bernardo / Priest / Player King: Devin N Golding
Laertes: Marcus Griffiths
Professor of Wittenberg / English Ambassador: Byron Mondahl
Gertrude: Tanya Moodie
Polonius: Cyril Nri
Fortinbras / Marcellus / Lucianus: Theo Ogundipe
Ophelia: Natalie Simpson
Claudius: Clarence Smith
Ghost / Gravedigger: Ewart James Walters
Player: Temi Wilkey
Director: Simon Godwin
Designer: Paul Wills
Lighting: Paul Anderson
Music: Sola Akingbola
Music Associate: Jon Nicholis
Sound: Christopher Shutt
Movement: Mbulelo Ndabeni
Fights: Kev NcCurdy