Hamlet Review at the Cockpit Theatre
The most illustrious play by the world’s most iconic playwright has been revamped with a refreshing and contemporary feel in the Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone, and although reducing Shakespeare’s Hamlet to a mere 90 minutes may seem impossible, it has been condensed astonishingly well in this fast-paced adaptation of the play.
Having been performed countless times the world over since the finishing touches were put in place in 1601, Hamlet is so well known and celebrated that it would seem tricky to put the longest of all Shakespeare plays into a comparatively short piece of theatre and not leave any of the tense passions and resilient feelings of love, treachery, murder and madness behind, but the English Repertory Theatre’s production truly goes beyond expectations to deliver an incredible version of one of the greatest pieces of English literature ever written.
Never has such a young female played the disturbed protagonist, and the casting of 26 year old Rachel Waring in her intense and believable performance is made all the more faultless when she is delivering Hamlet’s expressive soliloquys in school uniform, showing the vulnerability and confusion of experiencing heartache and dark bewilderment at such a young age.
Hamlet is portrayed as a teen along with Ophelia and Laertes, and we first meet the eponymous Prince as he is late for class after his father, the King, has been murdered by his uncle who has subsequently married Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet’s chaotic state of mind is exposed through the play as matters soon spiral out of control in this disturbing interpretation, and although several parts are quite obviously missed from the shortened version, it only heightens the sense of tension in the relatively small space of the Cockpit Theatre, with facial expressions being clear from every seat and vibrations from knocked-over tables felt from even the back row.
Waring herself is an impressive Hamlet, displaying the distraught worries of the prince with intense authenticity. The complex character of Hamlet can be seen in Waring’s performance, not only in his antagonism towards his mother and uncle, but also in his confusion over his feelings for Ophelia. Played by Nina Bright, Ophelia also gives an entrancing performance, playing the part with refreshing sarcasm at times.
Some suspense is unfortunately lacking in the production due to how compacted and fast-paced it is, with quieter and more dramatic scenes having been shortened or even entirely cut-out. This is understandable in a play that is only 90 minutes long however, but it means that the death of some of the characters including Polonius isn’t as intense as it could be, with no time for any ominous feeling to be played upon and dramatically built up.
The English Repertory Theatre’s Hamlet is fast-paced, passionate and stripped-back to reveal an intense version of Shakespeare’s revengeful tragedy. Only showing until 15th March 2015, it is not to be missed for those unfamiliar with the work looking for an introduction into Shakespeare, as well as those well-versed in The Bard and wanting to see just how the famous ‘to be or not to be’ soliloquy is delivered in a compacted adaptation of Hamlet.
GUEST REVIEWED by Alice Bzowska