“There is no ghost. There is no equivocation. Only revenge.”
Four privileged pupils taught Modern History by Horatio find their worlds torn asunder when Hamlet (Rachel Waring) discovers that his father was murdered by his uncle (an impressive Jon House), who has also just married his mother (Helen Bang).
Yet this story is not a tale of teenage angst, but a ghost story is it not? And why has Hamlet been portrayed by a young girl?
In fact, Rachel Waring is the youngest woman ever to play Hamlet, who was in fact little more than a teenager himself, and why should she not? Her boyish looks, reminisce of George from the Famous Five, aside – this lady has all of the talent and passion expected from this Prince of Denmark.
This production is not perfect by any means, but it is unique and we all know originality can be a struggle whenever Shakespeare is concerned. The audience expects something different and English Repertory Theatre have given it to them on a school desk.
Although the initial idea to set Hamlet in a school is a strong one, it dwindles somewhat in Act II and the climax isn’t quite right for the setting. The age range of the actors and the sub-scenes that take place simultaneously lend themselves to a buzzing school environment where grievances are resolved with swords, rather than fists.
But what makes Hamlet such a fantastic play are the “words, words, words” themselves and they are spoken with such energy and feeling by the majority of the cast that it’s easy to get caught up in the action. The play within the play – performed on the pupils’ desks – manages to be funny and in fact there are several amusing, yet unexpected interpretations of lines.
Nina Bright (Ophelia) is slightly overshadowed by Hamlet at first, but once her madness takes hold, so does her acting ability and she shines as an innocent but half-mad, heartbroken teenager (and might I add a convincing corpse).
Casting Rachel Waring as the title role was a stroke of genius – her delivery and physical presence are sublime and as a result this production of Hamlet is fresh, absorbing and surprisingly good.
Review by Michaela Clement-Hayes
Horatio teaches Modern History to four privileged teenagers in Elsnore; Laertes, his sister Ophelia, who is in love with Hamlet, Hamlet himself and his slippery friend, Rosencrantz. Life could not be worse for Hamlet. He is late for class. His father has been murdered by his uncle and his mother has married him. Everyone knows of course, including Hamlet who holds the proof in a letter written to him by his dying father. Never paralysed by the task ahead, Hamlet rages against the impossibility of his predicament with matters getting completely out of hand and everyone dying a very nasty death.
William Shakespeare’s HAMLET
Hamlet is Shakespeare’s most iconic work. Completed in 1601 and now brought refreshingly up to date, the play explodes with modern ideas and is the ultimate story of loyalty, love, betrayal, murder and madness. In this stripped-back, fresh and fast-paced version, emerging actress Rachel Waring, at the age of 26, the youngest woman ever to play the eponymous Prince in a professional production, creates a deliciously ferocious and devious protagonist delivering some of the greatest soliloquies in the English language.
With a running time of just one and hour forty minutes, none of the elements are missed in this hugely entertaining, fast paced black comedy that ends in utter tragedy. Following their sell-out season at Oxford Castle, English Rep come to London with this unique and critically acclaimed production of Shakespeare’s tragedy. Now that Hamlet has become the most searched for theatre event of all time there is no doubt that audiences can be well rewarded with a London preview from this acclaimed repertory company before their forthcoming national season.
English Repertory Theatre
Director Gavin Davis
February 17th – March 15th 2015
Tuesday – Saturday, 7.30pm
Saturday & Sunday (March 1st, March 15th) matinees, 3.00pm
The Cockpit, Gateforth Street, London NW8 8EH
Ticket Price £29.50 (full price), £19 (concessions)
£10 tickets available on the day
Box Office Theatre Box Office online or telephone 0207 258 2925
Thursday 19th February 2015