Packing Shakespeare’s longest play into an hour is an unenviable task. Despite the strong acting performances, what the chief abridgers at Durham University Classical Theatre have ultimately done is ensure a lot of the magic of Hamlet is lost.
Integral scenes such as that at the graveyard – where Hamlet toys with the theme of providence whilst holding Yorick’s skull – do not appear. This meant that the production is not only disappointing for those familiar with Shakespeare’s masterpiece but confusing for any first-time viewers.
Perhaps the most important lines of the play, when Hamlet realises ‘‘there’s special providence in the fall of a sparrow’’, elude the audience who are surely awaiting this triumphant moment where the melancholy young man’s logic prevails.
The plot destruction becomes especially problematic as the play nears its conclusion. Claudius’ scheming with Laertes is almost totally removed, meaning the audience are thrust unexpectedly into the duel between the enraged Laertes and Hamlet. The essential context is missing in this climactic scene.
This being said, for the bits that are performed, the acting is impressive. Ginny Leigh’s performance as the titular Hamlet is very convincing; she appears always on the verge of tears, with her glassy eyes looking truly devoid of hope or happiness. The suited Claudius, played by Harry Twining, is just as slimy as he should be, and his constant handling and kissing of Gertrude ensure the audience find him deplorable.
Furthermore, the director’s take on the role of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern is intriguing. It is the productions greatest leap from traditional interpretations, and it comes off, with their synchronised speaking making them come across as robots completely devoid of emotion.
In all, it seems that the abridgers evidently went too far before realising they had so few lines left to cover so much. This piece of theatre, despite the talents of the cast, is destined to disappoint those who have any knowledge of the play beforehand, and to confuse those who are not familiar.
Hamlet is playing at theSpace on North Bridge, Fife Theatre (Venue 36)
At 11:05 until 10th August
Get tickets here
Image: Durham University Classical Theatre