by William Shakespeare
adapted by Kelly Hunter.
Park Theatre to 25 April then touring
90, Clifton Terrace, London N4 3JP to 25 April 2016.
On tour – Clasicos en Alcala, Spain 10-11 June; Glebe Neuss, Germany 13-14 June; Kronberg Castle, Denmark 8-9 August. Part of the 400 centenary Shakespeare celebrations with support of English Touring Theatre and the Arts Council England.
Runs 1 hr 30 mins. No interval.
Further information: www.flutetheatre.co
Review: William Russell 24 April.
Six actors, a sofa and a drum kit.
This pared down version of Hamlet – it is Shakespeare’s longest play and sometimes it seems like – works magnificently.
Characters have been abandoned, some have been combined, but the essence of the story remains intact in director Kelly Hunter’s minimalist staging which has been touring various Shakespeare 400 anniversary festivals, crossing my path when it came briefly to London.
It has a first rate cast, an impressive Hamlet in Mark Quartley, and makes use of virtually no props at all other than a large black sofa and a drum kit to conjure up that angst ridden court. Laertes exists, but takes over from a missing Horatio as Hamlet’s friend, Polonius is cleverly sidelined – the character can be tedious – and Ophelia gets to rise from the dead, acquiring some speeches that belonged to Gertrude.
Perhaps the most inspire invention is to make the Ghost a voice inside Hamlet’s head. It seems psychologically just right. Of course something gets lost as result of the cutting and pasting together, but as an introduction to the play it is superb – no longeurs, fast moving and drenched at the end in gore.
Maybe it gets a little more Jacobean than usual, although the line up of corpses in the full length version is pretty impressive.
Hunter wonderfully conveys Gertrude’s failure to realise what she has done in marrying Claudius, and the how to get people dead with the poison is resolved by using the hip flask Claudius resorts to throughout the events of the night, another directorial change.
Maybe bringing Ophelia back from the dead is a step too far, but it does allow for a powerful scene in which she uses old photographs and torn up love letters as rosemary and rue and all the rest. Finlay Cormack as Laertes is impressively torn between love for his sister and his friend and his bout of playing the drums adds to the sense of a world going out of control as well as being an impressive performance in its own right. At times, so famous is the script, that productions of Hamlet can seem like a recitation from a book of favourite quotations. The great lines are mostly here in this version, but they sound new minted.
Laertes: Finlay Cormack.
Claudius: Tom Mannion.
Gertrude: Kelly Hunter.
Polonius/Gravedigger: Steven Beard.
Ophelia: Francesca Outsell.
Director: Kelly Hunter.
Designer: Anthony Amble.
Costume Supervisor: Kat Smith,
Lighting Design: Tom Bray.