New theatre company Gin & Tonic makes an assured debut with an abridged version of Hamlet that breathlessly energises Shakespeare’s masterpiece with a confidence not often seen in such a young company.

You can’t help but be swept along by the pace of the production.

The six-strong cast lend tremendous vitality to their roles, although the real star of the show is the text itself, adapted for the typical 55 Fringe minutes by directors Henry Conklin and Elske Waite. You can’t help but be swept along by the pace of the production. Before you realise where you are, it’s a Mouse Trap-style ploy and Hamlet’s out to catch his murderous uncle. Everything feels charged--even the soliloquies, heavily cut, pulse with taut energy. Such an adaptation means that there’s little room to explore the subtleties of the original – Hamlet’s madness is never really in any doubt – but this doesn’t faze the ensemble and they play the interpretation well.

Olivier Huband is magnetic as the troubled prince. He ricochets around the stage, his flailing, angular limbs and pained, furrowed brow brilliantly conveying the trauma of Hamlet’s inner turmoil. His madness is reflected in the double-casting of the rest of the ensemble, an unoriginal device, but effective nevertheless, especially in the cases of Peter Stanley (Claudius/the Ghost) and Isobel Moulder (Gertrude/Ophelia). Moulder probably has the hardest job here, but she switches from the breathy and obedient Ophelia to the Hamlet’s regal, stern mother with practiced ease. Pedro Leandro is also notable as Polonius, whose long-winded passages of ‘wisdom’ form welcome comic relief.

There’s nothing especially wrong with this production but the pace is so unrelenting that there isn’t any time to consider the humanity of the play – even ‘to be or not to be’ seems ever so slightly rushed. Some of the performances of the minor characters are also noticeably not up to the same high standards of the rest of the piece. These brief lapses of concentration are understandable, given the scale of the task, but also mean that the production isn’t as successful as it should be.

Gin & Tonic are clearly packed with young potential. At a Fringe packed with Hamlets, theirs is well worth checking out. Conklin and Waite preside over an impressive, unapologetically high octane interpretation of the Bard’s most famous play.

Reviews by Sam Forbes




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The Blurb

Unable to accept his father’s death, a young man is suffocated by the close monitoring of his friends and family. Confined in a place where everything is ambiguous, witness his mental and physical worlds spiral out of his control, ultimately colliding in Hamlet's devastating conclusion. This bold interpretation of a classic text is injected with cutting contemporary emotion in a performance that promises to be intense, raw and electric.