I’m sure I need not go into the nitty gritty of the plot. Suffice to say it is the tragedy to end all tragedies, a tale of death, betrayal, love, and madness set in the backdrop of the 14th century Danish court. Kit Sinclair went down to the Nottingham New Theatre to review their production of Hamlet.
It’s difficult to stand out performing a piece as well known as Hamlet, but the cast of last night’s production at the Nottingham New Theatre certainly put their own stamp on it.
I was pleased to see gender blind casting used with no fuss. Whilst I sometimes wished the actors would relax a little more in their roles (the best moments came, it appeared, when they forgot they were performing the Shakespeare play), they were effective as a team and bounced off each other well.
Hamlet is a daunting role at the best of times, and as a student actor perhaps even more so. Maisie Jack deserves credit for stepping up to the plate, and ignoring a few first night jitters, she wrangled the dense script with skill. Jess Beadle-Platt as Ophelia, Hamlet’s lover, managed her descent into madness affectingly and believably, while T Kenyon brought a pleasing gravitas to the role of Claudius. I also enjoyed the interactions between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Tommy Allwright and Emma Torres respectively), including a secret handshake.
To me, these choices bring the comedic elements of the play successfully up to date.
However, the stand out performance for me had to be Polonius, brilliantly and hilariously portrayed by Alessia Lowcock. Despite their obvious youth, they were believable as a tottering old man, bringing much needed comic relief to the otherwise relentless tragedy.
In fact, the direction of this performance really drew out the comedic elements of Shakespeare’s work in a fashion I haven’t seen before. Whether it was Hamlet giving his famous “Words, words, words!” line whilst tearing up a copy of Mr Grumpy, Claudius and Polonius shuffling into the audience as they spy on Hamlet (“Prithee, make way!”), or Ophelia being given advice in the form of a Florence Given book, we were kept laughing the whole way through.
It would be easy to dismiss these choices as not giving sufficient reverence to the source text – but of course Shakespeare is a famously witty writer, and Hamlet loves his wordplay. To me, these choices bring the comedic elements of the play successfully up to date.
I also enjoyed the costume choices. Older members of the court are dressed staidly in three piece suits or business dresses, but the younger characters are given free rein to dive into a sort of grungy teenager aesthetic that sets them apart. Horatio’s outfit was particularly effective – it worked well with his characterisation – but Hamlet’s “I’m Not Okay” band t-shirt (a My Chemical Romance lyric, for those of us who didn’t spend all the waking hours of our teenage years on Tumblr) was also an inspired choice, particularly during the “To be, or not to be” speech.
The technical elements were also well conceived and effective, particularly the lighting and sound design during the ghost scene. I also enjoyed the use of two excellent live musicians at the front of the stage playing during scene changes.
Overall, this was an engaging imagining of extremely well-trodden ground. I look forward to seeing where the cast and crew take their talents next.
Featured image courtesy of Alex Watkin. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes were made to this image.
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