Tristan Sharps, Artistic Director of dreamthinkspeak, is a creative genius and, following on from the record-breaking success of his previous creation, Before I Sleep (Brighton Festival 2010), comes his latest sold-out production, The Rest Is Silence. This reworking of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet takes place in a disused warehouse in a rather run down part of Shoreham, certainly not a place where one would expect to see such theatre.
On arrival the audience is ushered into one of two matching warehouses and seated in a small café area. Unnoticed by many in the gathering crowd, and yet so very typical of the very individual performance about to be played out, each chair is the café is different from all the others. Some are typically 70s in design, some much older, but each one is an individual.
At the appointed time of the performance the audience is ushered over to the second warehouse and, after negotiating a long, pitch black, corridor, we find ourselves in a large empty room. Sharps describes the space as “multi-reflective” and that is exactly what it is. Each wall is about 15 metres long and about 3 metres high and seems to be a series of reflective panels with a larger, square panel in the centre of the ceiling.
At the start of the performance images are projected onto the back of the panels and it then becomes obvious that, what we are actually looking at, with the exception of the ceiling panel, is a series of windows backed by white roller blinds which, as well as making the Perspex appear mirror-like, provides a perfect screen on which to display the introduction to the piece.
After the introduction all the wall blinds are lifted and, with the clever use of lighting, individually the panels light up and we see that, behind them there are a series of rooms. In the first of these rooms we see the newly crowned King of Denmark, Hamlet’s Uncle and his new wife, Hamlet’s Mother, preparing to make a speech following the death of Hamlet’s father.
The text is Shakespeare’s, as written in the play and, although some scenes have been reorganised, it all flows beautifully. As the action switches from room to room the audience is surrounded by the various scenes with, through the ingenious use of connecting doors, some scenes flow directly into others. In order to get a clearer view into each room the, standing, audience is able to walk around freely which gives the piece an almost voyeuristic quality.
The setting for the piece is modern, but exactly how modern is unspecified, and the nine-strong cast are, quite simply, superb and, although dogged by the occasional “sound issues”, they give their all to the production. Edward Hogg as Hamlet plays the mental anguish at the loss of his Father quite brilliantly, in stark contrast to the cool and calculating Claudius played by Phillip Edgerley and Laertes Ben Ingles.
The production has no interval, so there is no interruption to the increasing tension which builds until the extremely dramatic final scene. At a little under two hours, the piece is fairly tiring on the legs but is an absolute feast for the eyes and ears.