Damien Ryan’s production of ‘Hamlet’ is a decent if forgettable take on Shakespeare’s famous tragedy. The pacing was tight and the selection of scenes interesting and unique, however the show was let down by some unimpressive performers.
The actor playing Hamlet disappointed, lacking any real emotional depth. He began the play with an “antic disposition” rather than undergoing a tragic downfall, which resulted in a static characterisation that failed to satisfy. Contrastingly, Ophelia’s ‘madness’ was underplayed and dull. The supporting cast were a slight improvement, with a good performance from Laertes and Claudius.
Director Ryan has made interesting rearrangements to the order of scenes, delivering all the story’s key events while maintaining a fast past and shortened running time. Another intriguing choice was to have Gertrude and Claudius perform as themselves in the meta-theatrical “The Mouse Trap”. Hamlet’s unsubtle criticism of Gertrude’s disloyalty is clearly demonstrated here and gave her performance a bitter twist.
The design was sparse, with temporary sets being moved on and off. 14th centuryDenmark has been re-contextualised to the 21st century and thus everyday clothes and MacBook laptops fill the stage. The mood of corruption and suspicion is increased by the constant spying and ‘bugging’ of conversations, similar to Ryan’s 2015 Bell Shakespeare production.
Hamlet’s soliloquies well and truly break the 4th wall as the light shifts on to the audience and he addresses us directly. He often walks through the tableau scene behind him, commenting on each of the characters as he reaches them. This separation of ‘normal’ drama with the soliloquies made the play understandable to follow.
A fresh and well made production which just falls short of expectations.