Reviewed by Jan Mellor
I adore Shakespeare! I have ventured on long trips to see his works in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon and sat in awe of the wonder of the tragedies and comedies that I have seen there. To see the RSC, perform in a local theatre is, therefore, a privilege and of course a joy – so as I entered the wonderful Lowry theatre in the centre of Manchester’s city of Salford. I felt not only delighted but grateful that I could see a master RSC ensemble within a half hour’s journey from home.
The first act opened with Hamlet receiving his indenture and swiftly we are transported from this modern place to that of Denmark following the sudden death of Hamlet’s father (Hamlet Senior). Now in Denmark the audience are introduced to the new Kings’ guards who as friends of Hamlet (junior) witness a vision that leaves them scurrying to Hamlet for advice. The vision was excellently portrayed as a light and a deep (and loud!) noise. Hamlet discovers that his mother has within a very short time (2 months) married his late father’s brother Claudius (turning this quintessential 17th century plot into a master scene from EastEnders!)
Hamlet, played by the remarkable Paapa Essiedu, visits the vision the following night to discover that the vision is in fact his father come back from the dead to seek revenge on his brother for his murder. From this revelation Hamlet feigns madness whilst plotting his revenge on his criminal uncle. Yes, the story of betrayal, deceit, distress and revenge is familiar with those scholars who have studied Shakespeare and those of us, like me, who have seen his plays countless times but this adaptation was unique. It cleverly immerses the old and traditional (African drumming, music and costumes) with the new (modern dress, attitude and style) and with fantastic (but minimalistic) stage settings, stunning costumes – Hamlet’s painted psychedelic white suit was inspirational, as were the stage canvases that themselves represented madness (skeletons, dinosaurs etc.) and kept the mass audience (the theatre was packed) in awe and wonder at every minute and set.
The 2nd act brought with it intense tragedy and pure faultless and phenomenal acting from every single person on stage. Young and old alike were open-mouthed at the sheer talent before them. I am not going to divulge the ending – if you know the story of Hamlet I can only say this performance will not disappoint – if you haven’t – go see this show to witness a sublime tragedy with actors that deserve every accolade that being part of the RSC bestows on them.
If you are an avid RSC or Shakespeare punter or a novice who has never witnessed the magic of this scholar’s prose – then go see Hamlet near you whilst you can and witness acting, passion and a brilliance as never witnessed before. Wonderful!
Shakespeare at his best!
Tickets cost from £16.50 to £31.50 (booking fees may apply).
Hamlet is at The Lowry in Manchester from 30 January to 3 February 2018, for more information or to book tickets visit www.thelowry.com or call the box office on 0843 208 6000.
The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Manchester, M50 3AZ | 0843 208 6000