This is essentially a decent abridgement of Hamlet for a ninety minute slot. Hannah Kaye’s adaptation is bold, however, with rearranged chronology, added text and most strikingly two Hamlets.
The project works, if only by inviting the expectation that this time Hamlet will actually do something. Benjamin Askew and Robert Donnelly in the lead role(s) dramatise Hamlet’s inner turmoil, sharing his lines, which often seem here to take the form of an argument between the two Hamlets. If only one side would prevail, we feel, Hamlet might break out of his inner gloom and impose himself upon the world. He doesn’t, of course, but that would probably be an amendment too far.
Disappointingly, the production never quite lives up to its blurb, which asks what might happen if Hamlet had a second chance. Is the tragedy as inevitable as it appears? It’s an intriguing question, but not one dealt with here in any more depth than in an above-average standard production. The unusual prominence of Fortinbras in such a short production is a good idea, though, making this a play very much about young men. John Dalgleish is particularly good in support, also playing Polonius and especially Laertes, another young man.
For me there was a little too much of Ophelia going mad, however, Hamlet not being the most interesting play on young women, I would hazard. But overall the ensemble acting is very successful, and the ghost of Hamlet’s father is done better here than in many a more lavish production. Sadly the costumes are a little naff, seeming to have been raided from the cupboard of an amateur dramatics society rather than selected with any great thought. Still, I suppose you can’t be picky when there are two Hamlets to clothe.
Till 28 August 2006.