REVIEW: ‘Hamlet’ – Adlib Theatre Company

Hamlet: A dimensional and devoted performance!

Two successful runs and sell-out performances embody Adlib Theatre’s ‘Hamlet’, with thoroughly thought-through characters, staging and overall production.

Emily Scotcher effectively performed Hamlet as a double-edged sword of endearing bravery and vengeful spiralling, her performance superbly conveying the moral greyness of the anti-hero lead. Her raw mental adversity of grief and the mischievous humour embodies a dynamic and dimensional Hamlet. The company’s consideration to remain close to the original Shakespearean play has left this for the audience to psychoanalyse- as part of the immersion! The ambiguity of maddened moments versus the harrowing soliloquies, each performed evocatively, really encourages the audience to immerse into the world of Denmark and question whether Hamlet is truly maddened by revenge or masking, dualling personalities. The approaches to the soliloquies were especially gripping and the raw emotion performed was great.

The decision to keep Horatio within the narrative was also great, especially considering other companies and critics discern Horatio as insignificant to the narrative. Adlib provides Horatio the dimensionality he deserves and proves how significant he is to the play! This was especially, and emotionally, conveyed within the closing scene, where the friendship of Hamlet and Horatio was deeply on show- enhancing the sense of tragedy. The striking decision to shoot Horatio to close the performance, an unpredicted change from the original script, very effectively elicited more shock for the audience! Using the gun also ensured a great ‘bang’ of a closure!. . . how revenge can just snuff candles out into tragedy.

The performances of Ophelia and Laertes were also superb, emphasising sibling love to only break it down later in the narrative, profoundly impacting on the audience. To see Ophelia’s character developed in an evocative and devoted manner was both harrowing and impressive. It is also impossible to ignore the sword-fighting skills of Laertes and Hamlet- one of my personal favourite moments of the play as an avid fan of fantasy! The dimensionality of Claudius, his secret of murder and its gradual unravel was performed effectively throughout, especially within his own soliloquy and the character development of Gertrude from blind loyalty to realisation against Claudius was superbly communicated.

The company balanced the raw mental turmoil of the narrative with humour. The gravedigger scene, the sailors, and the classic Shakespearian ‘play within a play’ was especially entertaining and when I watched the performance, the audience chuckled each time. Including humour provided entertaining breaks and enhanced the realness of Denmark. Involving the audience into the scenes through ‘fourth wall breaks,’ the improvisations, and the live-action roleplaying when the audience is seating and leaving was especially amusing and cleverly allowed the audience to link and immerse into the world of Denmark and learn the characters’ mindsets as we entered the venue. Through this, the performance felt even more immersive and a personalised experience, whilst also passing facts and knowledge on Shakespeare. Enthusiasm for the play, the characters and Shakespeare was evident!

The ability to adapt the performance from an outdoor theatre, picnic, setting (performed even through rain!) to the indoor stage was good. The performance translated well from one to another. The settings remained simple, similar to what a Jacobean audience would have expected in Shakespeare’s time and allowed for the narrative to effectively pass through spoken and shouted word, proxemics, and emotional performances, less dependent on mise-en-scene and allowing the audience to utilize the ‘theatre of their mind.’ This was effective in enhancing the emphasis of Shakespeare’s words and tuning into the evocative performances. Within the indoor stage, the lighting choices were often effective. For instance, the red light over Hamlet conveying his anger for revenge and the threat he poses against Claudius. However, the transitioning between music and lighting colours was a bit jarring at times, but this is respectable when the performance was originally produced for the outdoor theatre performance, which very effectively mimicked the staging of the Globe and the Royal Shakespeare Companies’ stage in Stratford-upon-Avon. The stage design circled the audience, with the characters entering and leaving the stage around the picnic seating areas, allowing for the audience to ‘envelop’ into the performances.

Overall, Adlib Theatre has created an evocative, immersive, and entertaining rendition of Shakespeare’s great- Hamlet! It was a great watch both times I came, outdoor and indoors, with strengths and improvements to both formats. The directing and acting really allows for each character to shine with full dimensionality and the themes of revenge, tragedy versus loyalty and humour is clear.

Also, as an offshoot- I want to thank the company for their support in my school’s study of Hamlet! The workshops have proven especially helpful, discussing various interpretations of the play and their processes of envisioning, and performing the mindsets of the characters. I am certain the performance will show up in a lot of our essays! Scotcher’s regular visits to the school to discuss her interpretation of Hamlet I have appreciated in my studies. This has absolutely proven how much enthusiasm the company and each cast member holds for theatre and sharing the world of Shakespeare! No wonder why they have completed two successful, sell-out runs of ‘Hamlet!’ To have heart, respect and enthusiasm for the play and the stage is crucial to a great performance- and they certainly have it!

I look forward to finding out what play Adlib Theatre will immerse their audiences into next! Thank you for sharing your love for Shakespeare and the stage Adlib! Adieu till the next!

Reviewed by Rosie C. Thistlewood

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