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Theatre Review: Hamlet



“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” – William Shakespeare.

With 2016 marking the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this year has seen an explosion of tributes towards the legendary icon. One rendition, being performed in our very own Lowry Theatre in Salford, is Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory and Tobacco Factory Theatre’s production of ‘Hamlet’.

Combining elements of politics, descending madness, sex and murder, Director Andrew Hilton recreates the tragedy that is both a thriller and an introspective reflection on the human condition.

The play, which is set in late medieval Denmark, is about a young prince who discovers that his recently deceased father was murdered by his Uncle. By discovering a series of familial betrayals, including those committed by his mother, Hamlet loses his sense of identity.

Due to a sense of responsibility to avenge his Uncle Claudius, Hamlet’s internal struggles become eminent on stage.  Weighing up whether he can trust the ghost of his father and assessing the moral implications of killing his Uncle all contribute to the presentation of a tortured soul and foreshadow a descent into an identity crisis.

Alan Mahon’s performance of Hamlet is truly captivating. The infamously grand soliloquies of Shakespeare’s play are executed convincingly due to the sheer amount of frustration and despair projected in Mahon’s speech and movement.

Isabella Marshall’s performance of Ophelia exposes the radical transformation of her character. From the quiet, subservient and respectful female to the exaggerated and almost deranged individual, Marshall demonstrates the tragic fate of the iconic female’s descent into madness. Hilton presents the degradation of Ophelia’s character by emphasising this sense of deterioration at a visual level. Marshall eventually appears with dishevelled hair, smeared makeup and a lack of shoes.

The costumes are both ornate and authentic and invite you to enter to sense of 15th century Denmark. However, the set layout is minimal and bare, with the initial set up consisting of merely 4 benches.  Due to the T-shaped stage, the audience completely surrounds the actors. This clear exposure reflects the exposure of the human soul.

The second act shows the radical progression of pace within the play with the death-count of characters quickly increasing. The climactic progression of plot alongside the suspense-building music all contribute towards the creation of an intensely thrilling atmosphere. It is no surprise as to why ‘Hamlet’ is the most performed play of all time.

TNT Arts & Culture Alexia Hendrickson

Photo credit: The Lowry

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