4 Dec

Famous plays have baggage. They have a past. Which is, of course, what makes them interesting to a lot of people.

Having been produced so many times, each new production can end up feeling like a commentary on previous productions. (It’s one of the reasons I like new work. I don’t like to see that much theatre about theatre.)

When you produce Hamlet, a reasonable percentage of audience members will ask ‘Is this about Hamlet or Hamlet?’

Montague Basement’s adaption of Hamlet is a snappy, engaging 90-minute, five-character version. We lose (to name a few) Gertrude, Laertes, Fortinbras, Rosencrantz , Guildenstern and the players. Ophelia and Gertrude are melded and the result is curious. Horatio, Laertes, Rosencrantz and Guilderstern are combined and the result is intriguing. And the structure is altered; there aren’t just cuts, there are also rearrangements. And the end………..

If you’re familiar with the text the changes are massive, and ultimately stimulating. Do they simply make the play easier to perform? Or is there a method……… I won’t say to the madness (because friends who weren’t familiar with the play very much enjoyed it. And I’ll add that a woman in the foyer said it was the funniest Hamlet she’d seen.)

Hamlet MB Program-7314

Performances are high quality. Patrick Morrow as Polonius is very funny. Christian Byers as Hamlet is antic, energetic and highly watchable. Lulu Howes as Ophelia is terrific (especially considering the challenging decision to have her witness her father’s death, and then alone on stage descend into madness and commit suicide in a handful of minutes.)

Director Saro Lusty-Cavallari’s set, with its TV screens and strewn paper, suggests both a teenager’s bedroom and the weight of the thousands of previous productions.

I did miss Laertes and Fortinbras, who are such foils to Hamlet. (The latter especially lifts the play into the political realm; “madness in great ones must not unwatched go”). I did miss Gertrude (especially her response to the lost Ophelia; “I will not speak with her.”) And, most of all, I missed……… but, of course, talking this way only highlights the power of text, and the beguiling allure of the past.

Veronica Kaye

Hamlet by William Shakespeare (sort of)

PACT til Sat 5 Dec

tix and info here



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