Hamlet: Rotten States
Reviewed – 16th January 2020
“Resourcefully minimalist, the coordination is slick and the acting, confident”
Hamlet sees his dead father’s ghost, pretends to go mad with revenge, becomes mad with revenge and everybody dies. Similarly, in a whirlwind performance, ‘6Foot Stories’ encapsulates Shakespeare’s longest work in just over an hour. The play, often abridged to around three hours, weaves together a complexity of themes, motifs and psychology which, while engaging the audience, challenges them with questions on certainty vs indecision, action vs inaction, appearance vs reality. Here, branching off from the up-dating, setting-change and gender-reversal productions, it is the group of actors employed by Hamlet to reenact his father’s murder and prompt a guilty reaction in his uncle, who also witness the ghost and are commanded to incite vengeance for his death. Thereupon, the players rewrite the script they have been given and hope to fire up Hamlet’s wrath.
We are packed into their rehearsal room, walls strewn with plot and character analyses, and watch this condensed retelling as the three members of cast put pen to paper and draw up a narrative involving the prince. Sharing roles as well as technical duties, each takes their turn as sound engineer, lighting technician, stage manager…and Hamlet, while adopting the play’s other main parts: Amy Fleming is a bumbling, pipe-smoking Polonius; sensitive, fragile Ophelia is played by Will Bridges; Jake Hassam towers above as charming antagonist, Claudius. At an enthusiastic pace, we are whisked through a simplified storyline which incorporates the essential highlights of plot and script and sums up the characters. The team operates their own lighting (designed by Nigel Munson), helping to dramatise the action, and sound (Jake Hassam), sometimes enhancing, other times rather overpowering in such a small venue. Thoughtful and well-constructed, this adaptation incorporates brief touches of puppetry, live music and fight sequences, all of which keep the sense of a theatrical environment and there are occasional strong moments of drama – Ophelia’s death, for example. But it is confusing as to the motivation behind the project apart from a live summary.
The creative roots and backstory of the company are evident through the production’s original style and lively energy. Resourcefully minimalist, the coordination is slick and the acting, confident. For those already familiar with ‘Hamlet’ it is a fun view from a different angle, a catch-up of old friends. Newcomers to the work might get the gist of the tale but, then again, may not.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Matthew Koltenborn
Hamlet: Rotten States
Hope Theatre until 1st February
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: