Hamlet at Shakespeare’s Globe
It’s a time of change at Shakespeare’s Globe. The theatre has recently undergone a complete brand redesign and seen off visionary artistic director Emma Rice. One of the most well-known tragedies of the iconic bard is now on stage with quite a few alterations, audaciously beginning the progressive revamping process that we have all been waiting for. Hamlet is a vibrant production, very colourful in many ways: from the casting to the subtly tweaked interpretations of the lines and the rich costumes. As opposed to the two most recent summer seasons, however, the play shows a desire to break with the canon – but without the flashes and sparkles of a trailblazing show.
After being visited by the ghost of his murdered father, Hamlet is set to exact revenge against his murderous uncle – usurper of the throne of Denmark – by marrying the wife of his dead brother. Faking madness, the young prince confuses the court and his friends while he secretly advances his plans for taking the life of the traitor.
The first and major modification in this adaptation is the gender swap between characters. The Globe Ensemble comprises of 12 actors who are not always assigned to their expected male or female roles. Ophelia is exquisitely interpreted by Shubham Saraf, however the actor is still called lady and daughter. The Globe’s artistic director Michelle Terry takes the stage in the leading role of Hamlet. The madness of the young prince brings out the best in her, while the actress smartly mixes a touch of fun with the lucid transformation of the character, delivering a smooth and strong performance. Not forgetting the solid interpretations of Richard Katz as Polonius and Catrin Aaron as Horatio. Other gender-swaps include an intense Nadia Nadarajah as Guildenstern, a casting which provided the grounds to introduce sign language in the midst of the sequence. The addition is simple yet perfectly fitting.
There is no big re-editing of the script apart from various cuts that allow this production to last less than three hours. This more feasible length serves the purpose of losing a good part of the gravity of the play. The production indeed touches the border between tragedy and comedy: no final pathos, only scattered puns.
As much as the props are scarce and the stage empty, the sumptuous and diverse costumes are in abundance. Here, again, the desire for a modern take is visible, without fully entering the contemporary. While the king and queen constantly wear old-fashioned gorgers, the other actors alternate their 16th-century clothing with trainers and jeans.
Four loud trombones appear for the crucial scene changes, with the drums beating instead in the drama’s momentous moments. The pop tunes gift the play with a lively twist, especially during the finely delivered ending.
Theatre-goers will be pleasantly surprised by this sleek and unusually light mash-up of one of Shakespeare’s most iconic works.
Image: Tristram Kenton
Hamlet is at Shakespeare’s Globe from 25th April until 26th August 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.