Wednesday, 27 March 2013

hamlet - jonathan broadbent, bankside rose

On Tuesday 12 February I went to the Rose Theatre site in Bankside to see a short, four-hander production of Hamlet. I only heard about it the day before, and it was sold out for the run according to the website, but I thought I'd go along and see if there were returns. The man wasn't encouraging to start with, but when he heard it was just one I was after he said I could put my name down and come back five minutes before it started, so I went to the Starbucks across from the Globe in the meantime and read my book. When I got back I got in; I'm not sure if anyone else had tried for returns, and there was obviously a fairly large group of students, and as there were a number of empty seats I guess several of them hadn't made it.

I enjoyed it. The doubling worked well, and the omissions were worked around well. Everyone doubled except Hamlet, of course. This was only confusing at some Claudius/Polonius moments, since there were scenes which they would both normally be in and the same actor was playing them. Only one woman, so Gertrude and Ophelia never seen together.

Things I remember. Hamlet was good; very much the young student (reminiscent, especially with the glasses, of Leonard in Big Bang Theory). No ghost (and no battlements): instead, his voice coming through the static on the radio, which worked quite well, could be ghostly or Hamlet hearing things. There was only one of Ros & Guild, the other didn't exist on stage but Hamlet kept interjecting as the other one - 'and Guildenstern' - again as if Hamlet imagining him (in his madness) or referencing a remembered friend. In lieu of the fencing, some kind of gambling game with cards in which the loser of each hand drank a shot of spirits as a forfeit, some of which of course were poisoned - this worked surprisingly well. Very little set, of course; Henry VIII had none I can remember, but this had chairs, with the occasional other thing, including table and radio.

We sat in three sides (Hamlet sat in the audience to start with and a couple of other times), with empty side the one backing onto the Rose underwater cement remains; they had a curtain drawn across so you couldn't see them, which wasn't how it had been when I saw Henry VIII there. But during the course of the action - I think in the second half (though there was no interval), after the play (where Hamlet used the other characters to play the players)- the curtain was drawn back, and they used the dry cement shore around the pool for some of the action: Ophelia's mad scenes, the gravedigger and funeral, which worked well. Apart from Hamlet, the characterisation I remember was Ophelia as a pretty fragile, withdrawn character at the outset, ripe for unbalancing.

Plenty reviews for such a small production, though few from the usual major suspects; these just from the first couple of pages of results, mostly. The Rose Theatre page for the production. Londonist (some good photos). Michael Gray blog (new to me; interestingly, only kicked up when I out of interest used the terms for an image search rather than web search). Telegraph. Plays to see (also new to me). Ink Pellet (ditto, for teachers - it says Simon Russell Beale is the Ghost's voice, haven't seen that anywhere else, though may dig out and scrutinise the programme). What's Peen Seen (another new one to me). The Public Reviews. The Stage. One Stop Arts. Reviews Gate. British Theatre Guide. Litro. The reviews are all good, to a greater or lesser extent (except that last one, as it happens), and deservedly so.