Review - Four Hamlets for the price of one
By William Shakespeare
Directed by Mark Radvan
Presented by the QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts students (Second-Year)
QUT Gardens Theatre
Runs 6-10 October. Bookings: www.gardentstheatre.qut.edu.au
To be or not to be – that is always the quintessential question in life, right? This line may now be a cliché, but it comes from one of the most powerful plays ever written: Hamlet.
Hamlet is a tale of slow and sweet revenge. Of murder, plot and treason; of love dashed against proverbial harsh rocks; of a young man, caught in the throes of grief and unable to see past his unerring sense of a fight for justice. It follows the tale of a young man who has a deadly truth revealed to him about the death of his father, the King of Denmark and his foray into a state of hell-bent revenge to avenge his father and bring his family to its knees. Looking on with alarm are the people around the young prince as they follow him.
This production as performed by the second-year acting students of the QUT Bachelor of Fine Arts was fresh. It had an impossibly good energy which really made the play move at a snappy pace that was a relief at times, as Shakespeare can sometimes move like treacle – well for me, in any case.
The production was itself grungy and gritty and had a shroud of darkness that brought out the ambience of the play and its words. The lighting created an interesting dynamic with the set and almost became an additional character within the play. There was good use of the set which is always nice as interaction with ones surroundings is a realistic and important part of life.
Every one of the actors performed with skill and an admirable amount of charisma. Their chemistry between one another was highly taut which added to the allure of the piece. It was evident that the all of the actors had a firm grasp of the text which transpired into believable performances. Of note were actors such as Tom Yaxley, who played Polonius, Meg Clarke who played Ophelia as well as Mychael Spicer, Joseph Mclaughlin, Emily Weir and Jayden Byrne who all were cast in the role of Hamlet.
That’s right. There were four Hamlets all of whom were swapped in interchangeably as the play progressed. This is led to some confusion on my part and I’m sure on the part of other members of the audience however, it was an interesting take on the casting of such a big role.
What I found could have been changed a little was the relationship between the sound levels of the ambient music and background effects and the voices of the actors, as well as the various sound equipment used. For at times it was difficult to understand what the actors were saying when both sound and voice met on the stage. There were also cuts to the script that I picked up on and would have liked to be included, but when considering the original play it would have been impossible to include all of the text in under two hours.
As one who finds it difficult to sit through long and arduous performances I was greatly pleased by the length and energy employed within the production. The casting was excellent and design, special. I look forward to seeing future works of all who were involved in this production as they herald great things to come for theatre in Brisbane.