by William Shakespeare.
Young Vic 66 The Cut SE1 8LX To 21 January 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat Sat (except 24, 41 Dec) & 30 Nov, 14, 29 Dec, 18 Jan 2pm.
Audio-described 21 Jan 2pm.
Captioned 19 Jan.
Runs 3hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 9 November.
Theatrically overt, even if it’s all in the mind.
Denmark’s a prison, claims Hamlet. At the Young Vic it’s an asylum, its workings on view as audiences enter, passing finally through a glass-walled security antechamber, where hi-tech security mixes with old-fashioned filing cabinets.
With flashing lights and muscular orderlies, it’s still prison-like; and somewhere everyone is mad. Former Royal Court director Ian Rickson follows that theatre’s 1980 production in having the Ghost of Hamlet’s father emanate from within him. In that Richard Eyre production, the Ghost convulsed Jonathan Pryce’s prince; here, Michael Sheen’s brisk, nervy Hamlet imagines himself as his dead father – the picture of his father he later produces is actually his own reflection.
By the time he orchestrates the play to make his stepfather/uncle reveal his guilty secret, Hamlet’s “noble mind” is producing sick sexual images. But his mind was once noble. He’s polite towards Ophelia till her giveaway glance indicates she’s tricking him.
He’s friendly with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern till he senses they’re betraying him. Eileen Walsh’s female Rosencrantz, (like Hayley Carmichael’s androgynous Horatio, a woman in male guise) gives new meaning to the claim Hamlet “once did love me”. Now he loves nobody; he’s horrified to think of his mother in sexual terms, struggling to utter “incestuous sheets” across a long pause. She, like Lady Macbeth, goes from assurance to overwrought madness.
Maddeningly unable to trust anyone, Hamlet overhears Claudius ’phone England to arrange his assassination. Revenge is done to, as well as by, the prince. Polonius’ blood-scarred body crawls into the graveyard as the priest, Ophelia rises to invite Hamlet to the duel.
Elsinore’s court is a clinic, its apparently democratic circle of seats undermined by Claudius’ and Gertrude’s being black, with arms. Rosencrantz recognises the point when leaping alarmedly from a black seat.
With Michael Gould’s Polonius on the verge of dementia only James Clyde’s formally suited, authority-figure Claudius seems sane. But even he enters Hamlet’s world of madness, jumping into the sandpit graveyard opened up for the final act.
If Rickson notably ends each act with a visual rather than verbal impact, his visceral, if sometimes excessive, production is frequently, provocatively, stimulating.
Hamlet: Michael Sheen.
Guildenstern: Adeel Akhtar.
Barnardo/Player King/Gravedigger: Pip Donaghy.
Horatio: Hayley Carmichael.
Marcellus: Callum Dixon.
Ophelia: Vinette Robinson.
Laertes: Benedict Wong.
Polonius: Michael Gould.
Gertrude: Sally Dexter.
Claudius: James Clyde.
Rosencrantz: Eileen Walsh.
Elsinore Staff: Adam McNamara, Matthew Trevannion.
Director: Ian Rickson.
Designer: Jeremy Herbert.
Lighting: Adam Silverman.
Sound: Gareth Fry.
Composer (Ophelia’s songs): P J Harvey.
Music: Stephen Warbeck.
Voice: Patsy Rodenburg.
Choreographer: Maxine Doyle.
Costume: Nicky Gillibrand.
Hair/Make-up: Campbell Young.
Fight: Kate Waters.
Assistant director: Elle White.