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Guildford Shakespeare Company’s Hamlet | Review

Having taken my seat in the beautiful Holy Trinity Church, I breathe a big sigh of relief. I should have been here a week ago but an outbreak of Covid meant that last week’s performances had to be cancelled; never mind, I am here now, socially distanced, masked and hungry for GSC’s Hamlet.

Freddie Fox as Hamlet - GSC
Freddie Fox as Hamlet – GSC

This amazing Church really lends itself to becoming an ancient castle, with its high ceilings, chandeliers and galleries, but the setting does dictate, in some ways, how the play is performed. There are only eight actors in this play: there would normally be more than thirty cast members needed to cover all the characters in Hamlet. It would be impossible to fit so many people into this performance area so the director, Tom Littler, has had to do some brutal editing and employ some very imaginative staging to fit this story within this beautiful building. The ghost of Old King Hamlet does not appear; we hear his voice from the shadows, a lovely touch, as the voice is that of Freddie Fox’s actual father, Edward Fox. Some key scenes, such as the performance of the play within the play, take place off stage, so we watch the audience watching the play. This approach makes it so much easier to see Claudius’ reaction to the re-enactment of the old King’s murder. It also means an entire troupe of travelling players is no longer needed.

The big draw for this production is Freddie Fox. We are extremely lucky that GSC were able to tempt Freddie to Guildford. While he is undoubtedly the star and gives a truly inspirational performance as a pitifully drunken Hamlet, the rest of the cast are not overshadowed. There are fantastic performances from Rosalind Ford, as Ophelia, (she also plays the cello quite beautifully), Karen Ascoe, as Gertrude and GSC regular Noel White, as Claudius.

Freddie Fox has said recently that he feels West End theatre prices are much too high and he feels actors are under pressure to give a £200 performance every night. Tonight, Freddie definitely gave a £200 performance but Guildford
prices are well below that, from £26.50. This run includes relaxed performances, BSL performances, audio-described performances and buddy performances for lone theatre goers. There is no reason not to attend this fabulous production: get a ticket if you possibly can.

5 Star Rating

Review by Sally Knipe

Broken by his father’s death, stunned by his mother’s hasty remarriage, and rejected by his childhood sweetheart, Hamlet wants nothing more than to return to university and his previous life. But this is no ordinary family, and Hamlet is Prince of Denmark. The state is in turmoil. Enemy forces are on the border. The walls have ears.

And then one night, a watchman sees something terrifying. Something impossible.

Hamlet is the unforgettable story of a man trapped in a life he is desperate to leave behind, charged with fulfilling a destiny beyond his reach. Thriller, mystery and tragedy combine in Shakespeare’s masterpiece.

Freddie Fox as Hamlet
Karen Ascoe as Gertrude
Daniel Burke as Laertes
Stefan Bednarczyk as Polonius
Rosalind Ford as Ophelia
Sarah Gobran as Rosencrantz
Pepter Lunkuse as Horatio
Noel White as Claudius

Director – Tom Littler
Designer – Neil Irish
Costume Supervisor – Anett Black
Lighting Designer – Mark Dymock
Sound Designer – Matt Eaton
Musical Director – Stefan Bednarczyk
Movement Director – Julia Cave
Vocal Coach – Sterre Maier
Fight Director – Philip D’Orléans

Written by William Shakespeare

Starring Freddie Fox
Directed by Tom Littler | Designed by Neil Irish | Sound by Matt Eaton | Lighting by Mark Dymock


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