Reviews for Hamlet are now coming in!
Hamlet (Published Friday 8 February 2013 at 11:11 by Lauren Paxman)
A 90-minute Hamlet which manages to keep in all of the best bits might sound totally unrealistic to some Shakespeare fans. But few of them will be disappointed by this whistle stop production.
A cast of just four make you fall in love with the playwright’s language all over again during this intimate show in London’s (self-proclaimed) most historic theatre.
Jonathan Broadbent delivers a staggeringly good performance as the main man, effortlessly treading the line between insanity, heartbreak and anger – and yet always keeping the audience on side. Any roles not covered by Liam McKenna, Suzanne Marie or Jamie Sheasby are handed over to a scratchy radio, or even the audience.
Director Martin Parr makes the very most of his cast and the space – with a lot of help from Rebecca Brower’s inspired design. Having said that, by the end you yearn for the intimacy (if not the dodgy lighting) offered at the beginning of the tragedy, as the actors stray more and more from the stage.
Oh, and when they say “the air bites shrewdly” in the theatre, it’s true. Just bring a big coat and think about how The Rose will be even more wonderful when it is fully restored.
Hamlet (Shakespeare – The Rose, Bankside By Laura Thompson)
This ambitious production of Hamlet at the site of London’s 16th century theatre, The Rose, occasionally soars, says Laura Thompson.
Now here’s a prospect: Hamlet at the Rose Theatre, the playhouse built in the 1580s by the entrepreneurial Philip Henslowe, where works by Shakespeare, Marlowe, Johnson and Kyd were produced until the early 17th century. Of course, the Rose today is an archaeological site, not a full-blown theatrical recreation like its fancy neighbour The Globe. And so this Hamlet does not take place on an Elizabethan-type stage, but in a very small slice of dimlit room adjoining the box office. The archetypal modern fringe venue, in fact; until after the Act III play scene, when a black backdrop is torn down to reveal the vast murky amphitheatre behind and beneath. The Rose, in all its mystery.
According to the publicity for this production, Hamlet was last staged at this site in 1594, and whether or not this is indubitable fact the sense of history is palpable. To hear the soliloquies spoken is to feel one’s imagination piercingly provoked. It is impossible not to think of Richard Burbage delivering those lines for the first time, and to wonder at how they were received.
So this perversely ambitious production by Martin Parr – Hamlet at the Rose, but played as a top-speed chamber piece for four actors – is setting itself up for an almighty fall. The miracle is that it survives and occasionally soars. This is partly because of its faute de mieux inventiveness, as when the Ghost speaks through the medium of a crackling radio, or when the climactic fight between Hamlet and Laertes is played out as a gripping game of poker. More importantly, however, the production works because Parr understands that “words, words, words” are what the play is really about, and that the character of Hamlet is, in essence, the conduit for Shakespeare’s barely containable excitement at the possibilities of language.
Accordingly Jonathan Broadbent, a relaxed, sad-eyed yet innately humorous lead with a sweep of fair hair and mature student specs, does not exactly act the part. He allows the words to flow through him. And what an unexpected delight this is; not least when one has seen so many actors giving the world “their” Hamlet, and thereby gravely impeding the play’s free-wheeling progress.
The less than two hours’ traffic of this production, and the doubling of Claudius-Polonius (Liam McKenna) and Ophelia-Gertrude (Suzanne Marie), does inevitably limit its Shakespearean sweep. But the overall experience is a fascinating one.