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Because what the Net really needs is another person sharing his uninformed views
Theatre review: Hamlet 
6th-Feb-2010 06:33 pm
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A variation on the preview disclaimer: This is a touring production with only a week's run in Greenwich so I don't think there's a preview period as such, but apparently this was only the second public performance so bear that in mind.

There's been two very high-profile Hamlets in the last 18 months so nothing wrong with a lo-fi one before the next biggie arrives this summer. Andy had a spare ticket for a production right here in Greenwich, which is the rather odd choice of place to launch a Glaswegian take on the play. Michael Emans' modern-dress production is supposedly set among a set of Glasgow mobsters, but apart from David Tarkenter's rather good Claudius there's hardly any real hint of this in the production. Certainly not in Grant O'Rourke as Hamlet; he actually gives a pretty good performance as a somewhat geeky, excitable prince, but by no means one who's been raised by hardened criminals and is expected to take over the business some day. O'Rourke's also overwhelmed by the most famous speech, but these things aside I liked him, a rather cuddlier Hamlet than the recent skinny ones, and I really enjoyed him turning into a giggly fanboy when the Player King turns up. Mostly the actors aren't bad but the direction lets them down: Making cuts to Hamlet's text is nothing new, but some of Emans' edits seem downright eccentric, and especially at the start seem to slow the action down rather than speed it up (largely by cutting some long scenes into smaller ones and moving the order around, meaning more set changes - Andy in particular found the abrupt set changes took him right out of the action.) But if they're still making changes, what the company should most look at is the sound design (no sound designer is credited.) While the actors are full of professionalism, the sound effects that abruptly start and stop, or the scene changes that have the same song played over them time and time again, are horribly amateurish and reflect on the whole production. In a lot of ways this is a group of talented actors doing well in the face of a low budget, but having a harder job up against a lack of attention to detail in many areas.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare is booking until the 13th of February at the Greenwich Theatre, with plans to tour after that.
Comments 
7th-Feb-2010 09:07 am (UTC)
Was there an apparently really good Hamlet at the Old Vic recently? Some young hottie was lead role but I can't remember who?..Ben someone I think?
7th-Feb-2010 01:36 pm (UTC)
Not all that recently really - it was in 2004 apparently, and I didn't go to see it; that would have been back in one of my periods of staying away from all theatre in a huff because "the theatre" as a whole was DARING not to employ me.

I know a lot of people fancy Ben Whishaw but I find it hard to think of him as a hottie myself, especially after seeing him up close in Cock. He just seems so frail you'd be scared to sneeze in case it knocked him over.
9th-Feb-2010 12:14 pm (UTC) - Hamlet
Anonymous
I agree with this review on the whole. I saw it at the weekend and felt the scene changes were utterly frustrating [you're bang on about the music], and to me this seems like the actors are never really given a chance to build momentum. The direction was weak and i wasn't sure why there needed to be so much furniture in some scenes.
However, i feel the cast were excellent. Hamlet was at his strongest during the soliloquies and the 'most famous one' showed us the fear of death that Hamlet is talking about. Perhaps you thought the actor was overwhelmed by the speech, but i saw a character overwhelmed by the ideas he was contemplating. There were wonderful performances throughout from Gertrude, Claudius and Laertes as well as a restrained and very moving Ophelia [her madness was particularly credible].
In general this seems like good actors who are foiled by poor direction.
9th-Feb-2010 05:15 pm (UTC) - Re: Hamlet
i wasn't sure why there needed to be so much furniture in some scenes.

There was a weird bit at the end where a tacky throne-like chair that was clearly one of a pair turned up for Claudius to sit on. Which is all very well except it never surfaced until that scene.

Perhaps you thought the actor was overwhelmed by the speech, but i saw a character overwhelmed by the ideas he was contemplating.

I think there's a temptation to underplay "To Be or Not To Be," understandably enough. I just think he underplayed it too much, the meaning felt lost to me. That was the only slip-up in my eyes though, which considering the magnitude of the role is impressive. (In case I wasn't clear above, I don't blame Grant O'Rourke for the fact his Hamlet didn't fit the alleged theme of a Glasgow crime family; as elsewhere, I blame the director for the fact that this theme was entirely cosmetic and in no way woven into the production.)

One nice side-effect of the tiny cast was the doubling of Ophelia as second gravedigger; Andy and I both liked the fact that she was quite literally digging her own grave.
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