by William Shakespeare.
New Diorama 15-16 Triton Street NW1 3BF In rep to 22 February 2014.
7.30pm 14, 16, 21, 23, 24, 30 Jan, 6, 12, 15, 18 Feb Mat 1 Feb 3pm, 22 Feb 11am.
Captioned 21 Jan.
TICKETS: 020 7383 9034.
then then Greenwich Theatre Crooms Hill SE10 8ES.
26 Feb 1.30pm, 28 Feb 7.30pm.
TICKETS: 020 8858 7755.
Runs 3hr 5min One interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 8 January.
Fresh, imaginative and stimulating, as three hours speed by.
That great actor John Gielgud said his best performances were often just before the dress rehearsal, without the encumbrances of set, costume etc.
The Faction uses a bare stage and modern dress, giving emphasis to Jonny McPherson’s complex yet direct Hamlet. Here is a noble mind o’erthrown (not “overthrown” as in the occasional rhythm-busting alterations of Mark Leipacher’s otherwise thrillingly intelligent production).
No neurotic madman, one side of his nature is to love too well. Never has Hamlet’s advice that Ophelia (Derval Mellett, strong-minded till his rejection) to go a nunnery started out just as that – advice to the girl he loves to escape the world’s evil. Only when he finds she’s miked-up for others to eavesdrop does he turn to disappointed rage, realising she’s just like the others.
He loves Gertrude too; there’s a confidentiality between Kate Sawyer’s voluptuously youthful Queen and her son, making her final hopes for him in combat with Laertes genuine maternal pride.
The production changes gear for the soliloquies, delivered with passion (only “To be or not to be” is sicklied o’er with a pale, generalised haze). Elsewhere, these speeches are true arguments, Hamlet banging his fists on the floor frustratedly at being unable to take action such as the Player King describes. Here Hamlet the actor, who loves theatre and its combined escape from and voyage into reality, becomes visible.
It brings an unexpected highlight. Leipacher’s strong on group images; we see Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (nicely differentiated as puzzled and purposeful) dead as heads in a trunk, before turning into the Gravediggers. The skulls they dig are presented as actors’ white-faced heads lined on the trunk-lid’s rim. Learning one is Yorick’s, Hamlet picks it up, which involves holding the head with the actor attached and speaking intimately to it.
The moment shows Hamlet’s genuine depth of feeling. And, in a production where images matter, Damian Lynch’s fine Claudius – a brisk, efficient ruler – has his image projected on the surrounds, while Hamlet’s father is a ghostly projection of a leading classical actor of our day, aptly shoehorned into a very fine Shakespearean production.
Voltimand/Player Queen: Jeryl Burgess.
Barnardo/Rosencrantz/Gravedigger: Andrew Chevalier.
Laertes: Cary Crankson.
Player King: Mark Leipacher.
Polonius/Priest: Alexander Guiney.
Marcellus/Lucianus/Osric: Christopher Hughes.
Claudius: Damian Lynch.
Horatio: Lachlan McCall.
Hamlet: Jonny McPherson.
Ophelia: Derval Mellett.
Reynaldo/Francisco/Guildenstern/Gravedigger: Tom Radford.
Gertrude: Kate Sawyer.
Director: Mark Leipacher.
Lighting: Chris Withers.
Sound/Composer: Simon Allen.
Projections: Martin Dewar.
Voice coach: Simon Money.
Fight director: Roger Bartlett.