This adaptation of Hamlet comes from Independent Theatre, whose most recent productions have included The Great Gatsby and Red Velvet. The play is directed by Rob Croser and features Paul Rodda doubling as Claudius and the Ghost, Bronwyn Ruciak as his new wife and Queen Gertrude, David Roach as Polonius and the gravedigger, Shedrick Yarkpai as the loyal Horatio and Madeleine Herd as the doomed Ophelia.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the star of this production of Hamlet is Hamlet himself, played by the young Will Cox. Cox has been with Independent Theatre since 2007 and over the years has had prominent roles in their adaptations of To Kill a Mockingbird, Huckleberry Finn, Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby and Red Velvet among others. As Hamlet, Cox excels. In a heartbeat he effortlessly swings from one emotion to the next, keeping the question of Hamlet’s sanity forever up in the air.
Cox throws himself entirely into the role and it’s difficult to keep track of the number of times he falls to his knees in anguish or in jest. The round stage must have been purpose built for his manic pacing, but this is not to say Cox’s portrayal of Hamlet could not sit still. His delivery of the famous “To be or not to be” speech was performed primarily lying on his back and is one of the more moving moments of the entire production.
One major part of Cox’s success in this role is his ability to deftly change his tone of voice from the epitome of charm to fiery passion in a moment. The verse rolls effortlessly from his tongue making it hard to guess if this is his first Shakespearean role. The scenes in which he toys with the pompous Polonius were a particular highlight as were the swift verbal games he played with the gravedigger on his return to Denmark.
The stage was angled steeply towards the audience, perhaps to symbolise the crooked state of Denmark or more likely simply to present the entire court of Elsinore better to the audience. The angled stage also allowed the lights to project shadows of the characters over the audience, adding extra gravitas to the more emotional scenes.
Props were rarely more complicated than a few ornate chairs, ensuring the attention of the audience was captivated the onstage action. The set itself was stripped back and minimalistic. The grave poor Ophelia’s body is lowered into was as complicated as the set mechanics needed to be. The focus of Hamlet is on the internal world of its hero rather than the external world after all.
Independent Theatre’s production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet comes highly recommended. It will be running at the Goodwood Institute Theatre until April 16.
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