Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Two-Day Productions in Association with Hartshorn-Hook Productions
Venue: C, Chambers Street
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Thankfully, someone at Two-Day Productions has trimmed back Shakespeare’s longest play, leaving literature’s greatest procrastinator only a handful of his longest speeches, but keeping most of the good stuff. Much of the key information in this bloodbath of a revenge tragedy – in which Hamlet eventually gets round to avenging his father’s murder – is also present. This young cast still has time to work on the pace, volume and meaning of their lines.
The story of ‘Hamlet’ is fairly well-known, so it’s alright that this brief adaptation of the classic tragedy misses some of it out. The script skimps a bit here and there, but still carries the essentials – a tortured young prince, his father dead, his uncle king and married to the widowed queen. Then, of course, the bizarrely tattered ghost, in what is otherwise a pleasantly Edwardian-dress production. It’s not an obvious period in which to set this play, but the globe, flag and suitcases of the set give an Edwardian sense of exploration, travel and a desire to learn new things – very apt for this young scholar, Hamlet.
Hamlet himself is alternately broody and giggly, carrying an assured swagger into the young Dane. He misses some of the bitterness and the cynical wit of the part, and only plays some of the laughs on offer. Claudius has never been one of the Bard’s most villainous parts, and there’s something highly bureaucratic about this one. Some of the supporting roles are underpowered, and at times the volume needs some work.
The scenes have been trimmed down to flow quickly, and they often do. It’s important to keep the verse moving along and not let it stultify. When that works – and it usually does – this is a quick-moving production. This is a play that whips the plot along, condensing it down to an hour and a quarter without losing anything major.
For the most part this is an assured, steady production, but every now and then a line grates. Not all of what is said has been thought through fully, and the cast need to go through the deeper meanings of some of the things they say. While the final scene’s exhilarating sword fighting zings across the stage, the actual feeling of danger is a little lacking – which is true of much of this production that keeps the energy high, the action rapid, but sometimes drops the emotion a little.
With some careful tightening in the right places and time to develop through its run, this determined ‘Hamlet’ could step up another gear.