Theatre Review: Hamlet

Hamlet by William Shakespeare, presented by The Globe Theatre on Tour in The Fellows’ Garden, King’s College, Cambridge until Sunday, July 8. Review by ANGELA SINGER.

THIS is Hamlet as audiences in Shakespeare’s time might well have seen it – on tour, with a small but ingeniously dextrous cast, presented with humour, staged with wit and a perfect two hours of entertainment.

Directors Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst offer the spectrum of showmanship as would have been expected from a travelling troupe: a piece that has everything, including music, song and dance. Here is all the tragedy and the tears, all the agony and anticipation. Then the play within the play is a real comic treat.

Michael Benz is a young Hamlet, just as we have got used to seeing actors old enough to play Gertrude – because after all some of them have been women. (Not saying there is anything wrong with that, just stating a fact...) He is an inspired Dane, by turns angry, anguished, self-reproachful, hateful, funny, torn, ironic but never irritatingly cocky. He brings a freshness to lines that everyone thinks they know.

Carlyss Peer plays Ophelia with such depth that you guess at what her relationship has been with Hamlet up to that point.

Dickon Tyrrell and Miranda Foster, immaculate as Claudius and Gertrude, also play the Player King and Queen – to the audience’s utter delight. Miranda Foster also turns her hand as second gravedigger with Christopher Saul – a consummate Polonius - playing the first.

This production makes such an excellent virtue of having a small cast that it seems a pity to ever have more, when a team of such virtuosos can provide this much fun with a theatrical sleight of hand. This effortless range is the joy of theatre.

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Everyone is strong in this ensemble production, which is slick as a kaleidoscope. Peter Bray is equally pleasing as Rosencrantz, Marcellus, Prince Fortinbras and Osric. Matthew Romain similarly gratifying as Guildenstern, Laertes, Bernardo, and Lucianus. Tom Lawrence is a memorable Horatio (as well as playing Reynaldo and the Captain).

This production is a balm for the soul. It is good to see a play that you feel has been done the way the writer intended and knew. They even gave it a happy ending. It was a sweet prince.