Following on from Othello, their first foray into the works of Shakespeare, Icarus Theatre Collective and Harrogate Theatre, bring their interpretation of Hamlet, directed by Max Lewendel, to the Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts, as part of a national tour.
The bard’s tragic tale of the young Prince of Denmark, driven by grief and the need to avenge his father’s murder at the hand of his own brother, and whose seeming descent into madness leads him to murder and the inevitable destruction of everything and everyone he holds dear, is faithfully retold in this wisely abridged version. At a smidge over two and a half hours still, all the key elements of the story are here, with some novel twists to keep things fresh. Hamlet’s faithful confidante Horatio is here a self-assured and strident woman (played with great sensuality by Dani McCallum), adding a new dynamic to their relationship. The simple, but versatile set, designed by Christopher Hone, doubles nicely as battlements, palace and graveyard - incorporating a tomb - used to great effect in the poignant burial scene for the ill-fated Ophelia (played sweetly and with measured madness, by Loren O’Dair). And the use of the nine-strong cast as human statues when not doubling up as one of several characters they each play adds a suitably supernatural atmosphere to proceedings.
Top marks to Giles Roberts who, as Hamlet, gives a sensitive and humane performance, and avoids the melodramatic pitfalls of the role, and delivers a fine, naturalistic ‘To be or not to be’ speech. Nick Holbek’s Laertes was powerful and convincing, and there are distinct incestuous undertones in his relationship with sister, Ophelia. John Paton’s murderous and duplicitous Claudius, and Julia Munow’s misguided Gertrude, torn by loyalty to her son and to her lover, are a fine match, and the King’s spies Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (as played by Tobias Deacon and Omar Ibrahim) suitably sycophantic. John Eastman doubles as Polonius, and to great impact as the Ghost of Hamlet’s slain father.
Not as ground breaking perhaps as some of Icarus’ more contemporary works, this production does not however pull any punches, and is not afraid to fully explore the depths of human despair and depression. A traditional and palatably condensed interpretation, played by a talented and enthusiastic cast, Icarus well deserve to find a broader audience for this work.