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August 4, 2011 | by  | in Theatre |
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Shakespeare’s Hamlet – An understanding simple and unschooled

In reviewing a faithful adaptation of any Shakespearean tragedy, without having so much as a basic grasp on Elizabethan vocabulary, one would expect a bewildering and foreign experience. I did, and for the first half-hour of Hamlet, that is exactly what I got. Curiously, this changed as the story progressed. You find that you can draw from the visceral emotion and tension that flows between the actors, what you cannot from their dialogue.

A fellow patron put it best, Hamlet feels completely foreign until “after some time, you tune into it”. Put less poignantly, it’s like being fourteen and stumbling upon pornography whose eastern-European country of origin you can’t pronounce, you aren’t really there for the dialogue. This isn’t to say that Melanie Camp’s Hamlet was in any way crude; any mature content was tastefully handled, sans an intentionally base (and very funny) scene introducing the touring players.

Doing away with a typical stage, the audience was seated in a single encircling row, resulting in a deeply intimate experience. Bearing more resemblance to a catwalk than an auditorium, the stage was further transformed by excellent lighting, courtesy of Joseph Mahoney and Tim Williams. Background music was also used to build tension and establish scenes, sometimes to great effect, though it would often fade away abruptly, giving a deflated feeling.

The cast more than made up for any minor technical shortcomings, particularly John Smythe who delivered Polonius’s intricate banter with the dexterity and rhythm of a stand-up comedian. Philip Ward’s portrayal of the Ghost of Hamlet’s Father was also stellar. Other memorable moments included a singing Ophelia, and the climactic fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes. Ultimately, this director’s Hamlet was unconventional yet satisfying.

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