22-28 Aug, 1210 (1325) @ C Chambers Street
By Danielle Farrow
This ‘dark new adaptation’ of Shakespeare’s Hamlet has the prince’s friend, Horatio, piecing together what happened in court that lead to so many deaths, following Hamlet’s injunction to “tell my story”. He has boxes of evidence, marked in Roman numerals as the 5 Acts of Hamlet. He works his way through these papers and tapes, both audio and visual, while most scenes are acted out, with some projected and some (Hamlet’s soliloquies) played as voice-overs, the latter unfortunately rather dull and not bringing the language to life.
The thriller device does not successfully explain some knowledge of Claudius’ storyline that is presented – how Horatio came by Claudius’ attempt at prayer, for instance: a beautifully ironic scene in Shakespeare’s play, but losing some of its power here when Hamlet makes no appearance during it. Cuts and changing about of scenes form the ‘adaptation’ and there are changes to actual story events too. It is as if the play often wants to present Hamlet mad and possibly creating all that happens, but then trips up over the actual guilt of Claudius which Shakespeare makes so clear.
The ‘dark’ element physically presented means that projections are too dark, the Player King suffering particularly – if there is passion and nuance of performance here, it cannot be seen. Also, in a scene where everything and everyone is so sombre in mood and darkly clad, Gertrude’s appeal to Hamlet to cast off his mourning makes no sense. Alongside this, no feel of majesty or court is created and other little details are also frustrating – if Hamlet’s discovered love poem to Ophelia is a recording, and he is always recording thoughts and messages – audio tapes sent as ‘letters’ – why does she only have papers to give back when returning his love tokens?
So what is it that does work here? The relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia is created well, and Carolina Main as Ophelia is excellent. She lifts the language while still retaining the very modern, ‘realistic’ style of playing chosen for this production. Craig Karpel’s Claudius goes against this style somewhat, which adds energy and presence to his performance, but he is not able to include her believable quality. The rest tend to lose Shakespeare’s heightened emotions and words, though Hamlet (Adam Moulder) has his moments. The idea, as well, of Horatio following Hamlet’s dying wish, has merit. The multimedia works fairly well – where clear – and it is interesting to see how the story is told in this way.
Overall this production is somewhat lacking in changes of pace and there are choices and cuts which interfere with the sense of the story and its dialogue. Yet Ophelia is definitely worth watching and there are ideas that do work – including the ‘dumb show’ of woe that accompanies Ophelia’s song, and the use of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to combat any need for a larger cast.
This is an interesting adaptation and likely to stimulate debate among those who know Hamlet already; it should also be fairly clear as a story for those who are not familiar with this Prince of Denmark’s tragedy.