3D Hamlet: A Lost Generation throws up questions. To start: Why use 3D at all? It is not great quality and plays the tiniest part, unnecessary and adding nothing. So – just a gimmick to gain audiences? It is the Fringe – gain an audience any way you can, but make the play worth seeing.
Fundamental Theater Project’s Hamlet is worth seeing.
Next: A Lost Generation? It is debatable whether, despite the publicity, you would leave this production thinking, “Ah yes, that was all about ‘the consequences of one generation’s actions on another‘ – absolutely”. But you are likely to be thinking about the way Shakespeare’s story has been told. Even if you do not know the original play, this Hamlet stimulates thought about taking action to change untenable situations, about motivation and about what is most important in life.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a prince trying to deal with the death of his father and re-marriage of his mother to his uncle Claudius, the new king, who then finds indications that Claudius murdered the old king. Revenge is not the bloody, active action of many scripts, but something with which Hamlet struggles further and so the play becomes about taking action, motivation and the way in which people try to deal with life. Exactly what Fundamental Theater Project has created here in a modern adaptation where Claudius controls his darkly clad statespeople through blood red scripts, detailing what must be said and done.
The use of modern technology such as mobiles, with references to social media, and projection onto the back hangings is actually integral to the production and works very well where the projection is clear. Sometimes having hanging strips in white and silver obscures the visuals and sound effects mangled the words of Hamlet’s father (a projected Alec Baldwin). There is also a problem of sightlines – the audience is seated on three sides and if on the side, projections are less clear. Also, the focus on Hamlet in this staging meant one could be left too long staring at the back of an actor not conveying enough physically while Hamlet was blocked from view. So, queue early for front seats!
Above all, though, Shakespeare needs actors who can handle his language – and these actors can, all of them driving through the lines with clear understanding. Doubling works very well, to the extent that it is sometimes not obvious (Jeffrey Omura as Horatio and Rosencrantz) and there is an experience to those playing the older generation that works particularly well with the political setting. The cast changes (see note below): on this occasion Sam Underwood’s Hamlet was believable, attractive and highly entertaining in his witty, well-timed baiting of other characters.
Forget the hype about 3D and famous guest artists – this is an adaptation of Hamlet that, despite drastic cuts, keeps the core of the original strong and continues its examination of what is needed to take action, but also underlines the modern need for self-determination. Enjoy finding out what questions this Fundamental Theatre Project raises for you.
By Danielle Farrow
5 – 27 August (not 14, 21), 20:40 (22:00) @ theSpaces on the Mile
Please note – there are cast changes throughout the run: most, but not all dates, have Anthony Rapp as Hamlet; other characters are also double or triple cast and include some dates featuring guest artists Linda Marlowe as Gertrude and a one-off appearance by Simon Callow as Polonius. See www.fundamentaltheaterproject.com for details.