So what can Galleon Theatre Company’s abridged studio performance offer us? Bruce Jamieson’s lavishly dressed production is set within a 1800s Gothic Romantic aesthetic, and although often looks the part, never really manages to take off.
There’s early promise in Barry Clarke’s Polonious as he bumbles about whilst displaying a clear authority over his daughter Ophelia Elana Martin. Praise also goes to Martin for her later scene when Ophelia is consumed by madness. Her delicate voice and singing whilst dressed in tattered attire achieves success in one of the more engaging scenes of the night.
Robin Holden plays the prince with a wide-eyed vacancy. His Hamlet is well spoken and always in control, but as a result lacks urgency in a pacey and casual portrayal of a young man who is very much out of control. Hamlet’s potential playfulness and energy in madness fail to contrast from some lethargic monologues.
The action lacks a much-needed spark - possibly extinguished by the abundant trimming of the text and complete cutting of some scenes. Uninspiring too are the laboured blackouts and a blank stage with a stone garden bench providing the only set. This venue is the theatre company’s residence and I’d hoped they would have more incentive to innovate their performance space – Polonious’ stabbing overshadowed by an emergency exit sign whilst an usher cringingly draws a curtain to conceal the deed, shows a company somehow unfamiliar with their playing space.
Rich, filmic music is used throughout to try and inject emotion and tension but sadly offers little more than a distraction to Shakespeare’s words.
This Hamlet is adequately told if not always convincingly. Choices to be different such as the Thenardier-like Gravediggers and a camp messenger in the final scenes never really amuse whole-heartedly. There’s promise in a few performances but sadly this take on one of the greatest dramas in the English language never manages to compel or thrill.
- Alex Packer