by William Shakespeare.
Icarus Theatre Collective and Harrogate Theatre Tour to 14 May 2011.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
Review: Alan Geary 26 November at Lakeside Arts Centre Nottingham.
Despite misgivings, the greatness comes through.
There are puzzling features about Icarus Theatre Collective’s interpretation of Hamlet. Some are probably explained by the economics and logistics of touring theatre; some are clarified in the slightly chaotic programme notes.
So the fact that most of the characters except Hamlet, are wearing silvery boots is presumably to heighten the ghostly atmosphere. But it’s not clear, for instance, why Horatio is played by a woman, or why some of the interior monologues are spoken wholly or in part by the appropriate character, some wholly or in part by other actors in a kind of chorus.
Nevertheless this is an interesting production, done in more or less Elizabethan costume on a simple, symmetrical set suggestive of things classical. The problem the play poses any director – when is Hamlet genuinely mad and when is he feigning? – isn’t resolved; but why should it be? Any answer a director can come up with generates further difficulties.
Giles Roberts, as Hamlet, does the madness scenes, feigned or otherwise, well; at times he’s a trembling wreck. He’s particularly good too in his scenes with Loren O’Dair’s convincing Ophelia, and with Tobias Deacon (Rosencrantz) and Omar Ibrahim (Guildenstern). The interaction between these two – Rosencrantz incompetent; Guildenstern even more incompetent – is one of the best things in the play. It’s a fascinating touch to have them cribbing their lines. Presumably it’s not Deacon and Ibrahim standing in at the last minute: it’s R and G out of their depth in a sequence of events beyond their ken.
Director Max Lewendel dumps the Fortinbras sub-plot, which is a shame. Although we still have Laertes, we lose some contrast between Hamlet, the procrastinator, and Fortinbras, the man of action; and, of course, a reminder that there’s an un-neurotic life outside Elsinore.
A bigger shame is that the text, otherwise well-delivered, is sometimes taken fashionably fast so you don’t get time to mull over nuances. The play-within-a-play scene, the one that follows in Gertrude’s bedroom, and the graveyard scene, intentionally or otherwise, are rushed and neutered.
Misgivings aside, Lewendel does ensure that the greatness of the play is still evident.
Hamlet: Giles Roberts.
Ophelia: Loren O’Dair.
Claudiu: John Paton.
Gertrude: Julia Munrow.
Polonius: John Eastman.
Laertes: Nick Holbek.
Rosencrantz: Tobias Deacon.
Guildenstern: Omar Ibrahim.
Horatio: Dani McCallum.
Director: Max Lewendel.
Designer: Christopher Hone.
Lighting: Oliver Welsh.
Sound: Theo Holloway.
Costume: Katharine Heath.
Movement: Carrie Mueller.
Fight director: Ronin Traynor.
Assistant director: Bethany Pitts.