Dominic Dromgoole's pared-down touring version of Shakespeare's most famous tragedy achieves what could have been impossible, rendering the entire story into a tale told by just eight actors. The presentation of The Mousetrap to the court would seem logistically impossible but, thanks to a neat theatrical device, Drumgoole manages it.
This is a fast-paced production, telling the tale simply with little adornment – although a speech from Hamlet to the players about the role of clowns is an unusual addition, Drumgoole said that he used the First Folio extensively as that lent itself more to a touring production.
The whole production mirrors the travelling players themselves: a simple staging, few props with the actors changing costume from one role to another on stage. They have a hectic time, Simon Armstrong jumps from being Claudius to the Ghost to the Player King, while playing a mandolin between scenes, with some good riffing on Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's names.
The story is presented simply with Armstrong and Amanda Hadingue's Gertrude giving a good account of themselves. John Bett's Scottish Polonius was slightly too much the garrulous fool – you wonder how he became a trusted advisor – and there's a touching Ophelia from Jade Anouka.
Joshua McGuire's Hamlet however is not convincing. He handles the comic scenes deftly enough - and we see that he's a student at heart. But he fails to persuade us that here's a man grappling with the most profound of moral quandaries and his verse speaking isn't quite there. But the production is set to go on tour in the coming weeks and I expect that it will improve over time. It's certainly a decent enough production and worth catching.