Aug 17 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Dynamic and deadly

TheSpace on North Bridge (venue 36)
Fri 1 – Sat 23 August 2014

With a cast of only six, Gin & Tonic Productions create an intense and accessible abridged version of Hamlet that leaves a craving for more.

Isobel Moulder. Photo: Philippa Oliver

Isobel Moulder plays both Gertrude and Ophelia. Photo: Philippa Oliver

Following the death of King Hamlet of Denmark, and Queen Gertrude’s rapid marriage to his brother Claudius, Prince Hamlet is visited by his father’s ghost who wants him to avenge his death. The play follows the Prince as he contemplates and exacts his revenge, accompanied by his descent into madness.

This production, although beginning rather hurriedly, proves to be accessible and easy to follow – the emphasis on the wording is well-rehearsed and articulated. The actors use the cramped stage in TheSpace well, although a slightly larger arena would suit the production better.

There are no fancy sets or fripperies. In fact, in a bold move by directors Henry Conklin and Elske Waite, there is nothing to add to, or detract from, the strength of the characters and the actors that play them. The result is an explosion of raw talent that positively bursts from the stage; there is no need for any accompaniments.

The actors are focused, composed and confident as they perform a masterful juggling act: with the exception of Hamlet, the remaining cast perform a minimum of two roles apiece. The transitions between characters are flawless and it’s particularly fascinating to watch the actors as they exit a scene by taking a chair on the stage; it’s as though their personas are wiped for the next character to take over.

bizarre yet ingenious

In particular, the twirling of Isobel Moulder between the proper and regal Queen Gertrude and the initially innocent yet increasingly mad Ophelia is captivating. The contrast between the characters is accentuated, heightening the focus and intensity of both to add further depth and dimension to the characters. So too, the casting of Peter Stanley as both murderer King Claudius and his accuser the Ghost of King Hamlet is bizarre yet ingenious.

A particular stand-out performance is that of Pedro Leandro, whose main role is Polonius, Lord Chamberlain of the household. His gestures and movements are eloquent and his fatherly moments with Ophelia and Laertes are a pleasure to watch. He also adds a humorous element to the dark play and uses timing to great comedic effect.

But it is, as it should be, Olivier Huband as Hamlet who steals the show. He delivers a confident and assured performance, which is instantly admired. He performs the troubled prince magnificently, and there is little doubt of his decent to madness.

The dynamic and deadly fight scene adds an element of danger, giving the show a momentum that builds as the play progresses towards it’s devastating finale. When the actors retake their seats, characters wiped afresh, and the lights come on, the devastating reality hits that the end of the performance has arrived.

This is a production that does justice to Shakespeare’s text, but it’s impossible not to wonder what Gin & Tonic Productions could have achieved given more than just an hour-long fringe slot. And yet, perhaps that would have ruined the raw and charged atmosphere that makes it work so well.

Running time: 1 hour
TheSpace on North Bridge,  EH1 1SD (venue 36)
Fri 1 – Sat 23 August 2014 (not Sundays).
Daily, 22.25
Details and tickets: edfringe.com/whats-on/hamlet-1
Gin & Tonic Productions website: www.ginandtonicproductions.org


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