ADVERTISING AT CURTAINUP
Short Term Listings
BOOKS and CDs
LETTERS TO EDITOR
Writing for Us
A CurtainUp Review
The production involves the audience, from its opening blinding spotlight trained on the auditorium to the soliloquies spoken directly to us. During the "mirror up to nature" speech, the house lights are turned up and Hamlet (Samuel West) scrutinises the audience. Pimlott uses these meta-theatrical devices to break the dramatic illusion, to remind us that we are watching a play. Claudius (Larry Lamb) explains why he cannot pray, not, as is usual on his knees in the chapel, but standing, speaking directly to the audience.
There are other aspects of modernity and originality. During "the play within a play", the reactions of Gertrude (Marty Cruikshank) and Claudius are not just marked but are recorded on a camcorder. Claudius is surrounded by the force of gun toting Mafia style bodyguards. Hamlet is interrogated under a spotlight. When het kisses Claudius farewell in the confused "mother and father are as one" speech after Polonius' murder, Claudius lifts him off the ground in a crushing embrace and sucks at Hamlet's face like Hannibal Lecter in Silence of the Lambs.
Sam West as the prince, or heir apparent to the chairman of the board in this case, is immensely likeable, a student prince with tousled blonde curls who sits on the floor with Rosencrantz (Wayne Cater) and Guildenstern (Sean Hannaway) and shares a joint with them. As the play opens he is seen, hood up on his black track top, sulking, not joining in the congratulatory reception for Claudius and Gertrude. With the entrance of the players, Hamlet shows both his acting and directing skills, more at home with these denim clad, casually dressed players than with the self seeking courtiers. West speaks the lines well and naturally with many an original interpretative resonance. His is an intelligent, underplayed Hamlet, with his madness barely noticeable. West uses the players' Priam/Pyrrhus play to bring to the surface his own doubts about the murder necessitated by vengeance.
I was less enthusiastic about Larry Lamb's Claudius although he started well. Ophelia's (Kerry Condon) part is always problematic, the actress here seems as out of her depth as the poor unfortunate girl is. I liked the tragic and very human ghost, (Christopher Good) crying real tears, who leaves us in no doubt that the crime committed against him is not the murder as such but letting him die with his sins unconfessed.
The production's major flaw for me stems from the large size of the theatre which I feel interferes with what Pimlott is trying to achieve. The audience needs to be close to naturalistic acting, to be able to monitor facial expression closely. I also became more irritated by the lighting changes, of colour and of placing of the tracking spotlights, for each change of scene, blue for the ghostly battlements (which was slow in meeting its russet mantle cue), and green for the bilious court.
I shall remember the innovations:
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
Click image to buy.
Go here for details and larger image.