This ambitious re-imagining of
With its exciting premise and remarkable tech, this production has huge potential, but poor directorial decisions and weak acting prevent it from being either enjoyable or moving.
Just as gender holds little weight in this production, Hamlet and Ophelia is stripped of Hamlet’s politics, location, and time period. We’re left with the bare bones of a character’s struggle with familial responsibility and his despair over the human condition. However, the potential such reduction provides for raw and emotional theatre is lost due to poor acting. Effie Sutcliffe’s Hamlet spoke soliloquies with little feeling or variation of intonation, undermining the profundity of some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful lines. The whole play lacks the weight which the words demand: tragic events were handled by most of the actors as lightly as Lady Hamlet held Yorrick’s skull, lacking any of the existential weight it should carry. The only character portrayed with a tangible humanity was Alex Niko-Katz’s Ophelia. His portrayal of the descent into madness was done with a conviction and intensity of emotion which far surpassed that of any other performance.
The overall lack of energy and feeling in the production cannot be blamed entirely on its dubious acting. The director’s decision to endow Hamlet with greater violent agency destroys the character’s nuance and humanity, rendering the play’s ending void of catharsis. A controversial adaptation should bring out some latent potential from its original, but this production’s ambition represses what the original play has to offer.
In high contrast with the production’s lackluster character development, the sound and lighting is stunning. The soundscape in particular should be praised for its ingenuity, as Reggie Chelsom and Joni Lev have created a background for what could have been a highly atmospheric and eerie production. This otherwise flat and static play also contains some utterly breath-taking tableaux. The realisation of the ghost of Hamlet’s father is particularly beautiful. With its exciting premise and remarkable tech, this production has huge potential, but poor directorial decisions and weak acting prevent it from being either enjoyable or moving.