FRINGE REVIEW – Hamlet, the End of a Childhood

*****

6 – 30 Aug (not 16, 24) 1510 (1630) @ Zoo Pleasance

By Danielle Farrow

In Hamlet, the End of a Childhood, solo performer Thomas Marceul exhibits charm, stamina and a very fine ability to inhabit his main character. He creates a believable teenager struggling to deal with the break up of his parents’ marriage and the introduction of a step father into his home. M. Marceul’s performance in this role is very real and imbued with a quality which, even in French, grabs the viewer every time he returns to this Hamlet-related character.
 
However, while the bedroom setting and its toys and furnishings are excellently manipulated physically, they sometimes become distractions from the emotions tapped by the boy, particularly when voiced in caricature fashion and with restricted vocal variation. This jars with the depth of realisation afforded the teenager – that said, there are lovely touches of humour which surprise genuine laughter, toys are aptly ‘cast’ and colours are well thought out, particularly in the use of red.
 
The conceit of a boy dealing as Hamlet does with his familial difficulties is in itself intriguing and fits in a general way – as well as particularly in his relationship with his mother – but when the toy antics do not fully engage, the logic of why this teenager would be exploring the details of the Hamlet plot and characters in quite this manner becomes strained. Occasionally, the thought that stimulates the next event is visible, but often it is not: the likelihood of certain dialogue ideas forming in this teenager’s mind is not, therefore, fully explained.
 
Overall, the central performance is pretty much a tour de force, and if you are familiar with Shakespeare’s play the surtitles are barely necessary, so immersed is Thomas Marceul in his story and its expression. The playing with toys and furniture is in itself quite inspired, but the two styles relating to the delivery of the Hamlet character and that of the other characters clashes, despite there being every place for charm and humour in the staging of Hamlet – and charm, humour, honest emotion and physical detail are all present in this solo work.

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