Venue: The Drama Barn
DramaSoc’s last production of term opened to a packed and eager audience on Thursday night. Upon entering the smoke filled Barn, the style that directors Kosi Carter and Hannah Forsyth quickly became apparent. A sparse set of only two chairs and backdrop curtains clearly portrayed that the actors would be relying on their talent rather than any gimmicks to sell the performance. They did not disappoint. The entire cast effectively handled the difficulties of Shakespearean language so that their performances were clear, engaging and emotional.
The most notable adaptation that the directors chose to make was the recasting of Hamlet as a female role. Portrayed by Katie Smith, this change is not as simple as may first appear. It is not merely the language that this decision alters but it allows for multiple shifts in dynamic between various relationships throughout the play – most notably the mother/daughter relationship between Gertrude (Hannah Eggleton) and the love between Hamlet and Ophelia (Jess Corner). Overall, I believe these changes worked effectively because of the strength of the actors involved. The raw emotion shown by Eggleton in the second act should be especially commended.
A further performance of note was Jess Corner’s portrayal of Ophelia, especially in the second act where she is allowed to come into her own and wonderfully captures the stage. Corner is simultaneously able to make the character relatable and also heartbreakingly tragic in her madness.
In such a dark play, moments of comic relief are always sought by the audience and this production did not disappoint. This was not only left to the traditional clowns in the form of the gravediggers, played by Joe McNeice and Elllie Bridger, who were amusing with their bawdy humour but many other roles also facilitated this function. The duo of Guy Matthews and Anthony Rickman, playing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern respectively, provided many humorous moments on stage, especially in the first act by their comic timing and synchronisation.
The addition of live music in the performance, by a small orchestra residing in the balcony, was a nice touch. However, I was left feeling that this addition could have been more effectively used throughout the performance as the small snippets of music were pleasant and assisted in setting the mood of the piece more clearly.
In summary, the Drama Barn’s production of Hamlet is a highly solid performance of a difficult play. Combining the dark sides of human nature seamlessly with light humour, it is not one to be missed.