Hamlet

I’ve seen many a production of Hamlet over the years, so it’s always a particular pleasure to see a rather good one, and Petersfield Shakespeare Company delivered exactly that with its production at the Brighton Open Air Theatre.

Brought the script’s darkness and black humour into brilliant balance

Dark and spare, with a clear conceptual point of view, Petersfield’s Hamlet hones in on the paranoia and angst of Shakespeare’s script. I admit I had hoped for an abridged version upon arrival – I’m an early bird! – but was pleasantly surprised when it became clear the company was tackling the complete script with skill. Tension was always high, smart creative choices were in abundance, and jokes were always well-played. Supporting roles shown as bright as the titular lead.

As Hamlet, Harrison Rose captured audiences’ sympathy and ire in equal measure – a difficult but necessary feat to make the role work to its best. I’ve seen enough actors tackle the cerebral existentialism Hamlet faces without embodying it physically, but Rose showcased a unique physical connection to the role that impressed me. He managed the range of Hamlet’s emotions from sullen angst to creeping madness to righteous anger impressively and authentically throughout.

Supporting Rose was a cast of ten, stepping into various roles as required. As Ophelia, Laura Peterson brought an earthy solidness to the role, a welcome contrast the typical waifish ghost. Harriet Benson made for a memorable and graceful Gertrude, Freddie Hill was a memorable grave digger, and Joy Brook’s comedic timing as Polonius made her a show-stealer. The cast in its entirety can boast a complete mastery of Shakespearian language – not once did I find myself zoning out or running out of patience, which can sometimes happen for me where the Bard is concerned (sorry!).

The production was cleverly designed and well-suited to the BOAT’s open air stage. A sleek, gritty modern concept brought the action of the play into immediate relevance, and the use of neon lights, smoke, and muted colours worked together to set a clear mood. I was particularly struck by haunting scenes, which saw Claudius, Gertrude, and a ghostly young Hamlet draped in translucent fabric that moved, eerie and cloud-like around the bodies in the wind – it sounds simple but the effect was surprisingly stunning.

Movement scenes featuring the play’s only set pieces – chairs – didn’t quite sell me, not because they weren’t well choreographed, but only because I’ve seen something similar one too many times. On the one hand it’s a functional and minimalist approach, but on the other, compared to the rest of the production, it felt borrowed and unoriginal.

Chairs aside, it was an excellent production which brought the script’s darkness and black humour into brilliant balance, and I look forward to further work from Petersfield Shakespeare Festival in future.

Reviews by Chelsey Pippin

Brighton Open Air Theatre

Alice in Wonderland

★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

Hamlet

★★★★
Brighton Open Air Theatre

Wuthering Heights

★★★
The Warren: Theatre Box

Definitely Louise

★★★
The Warren: The Nest

The Good Russian

★★★★
The Warren: The Blockhouse

Beat

★★★

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

A corrupt and paranoid court, poised on a knife-edge where conscience meets revenge: Hamlet. Can sanity be preserved in the face of incestuous murder and treason?

Hamlet is a student turned unwilling action hero, who must now star in his own play, despite its bloody climax.

In this radical production, a cast of eight repeatedly switch roles, accelerating Hamlet’s disorientation and slipping grip on reality.

Most Popular See More

Dear Evan Hansen

From £30.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Everybody's Talking About Jamie

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

Heathers The Musical

From £18.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Play That Goes Wrong

From £24.00

More Info

Find Tickets

SIX

From £29.00

More Info

Find Tickets

The Phantom of the Opera

From £27.00

More Info

Find Tickets