Carriageworks Theatre, Leeds – until Saturday 9th February 2019
Reviewed By Dawn Smallwood
Leeds Arts Centre presents Hamlet this season at the Carriageworks Theatre and the company is collaborating with Royal Shakespeare’s Open Stages to bring this Shakespeare’s tragedy on stage. Directed by Ken Taylor this production is about a young man who was ordered home from his college and to be told that his father was dead and that his mother remarried his uncle immediately after.
Hamlet looks at how the tragedy affects each of the characters and the impact and it has on the family and the kingdom. This is more so with Hamlet (Chris Connell) who, through a visit from the ghost of his father, vows revenge to his uncle after he learns that he murdered his father. A sequence of events unfold which leads to tragic consequences to those near and dear to him. Connell gives an excellent portrayal of Hamlet and the strong emotions of a troubled young man are certainly projected. Hamlet is certainly misunderstood as he is declared “mad” by his family and close associates however the tragedy certainly has had an impact on his mental health. Very good acting also comes from Stuart Gordon as the villainous Claudius and Rachel Vernelle as Gertrude in who was circumstantially much as a victim as Hamlet.
Hamlet is a classic tragedy which certainly explores each of the characters in depth and strong themes emerge such as greed, power, murder, revenge and to an extent, mental health. Mental health particularly affects Hamlet who had to deal with losing his father and being avenged and also Ophelia (Olivia Richardson) who struggled with Hamlet’s grief and their affected courtship and losing her father, Polinious (Howard Russell). Unlike Shakespeare’s comedies it doesn’t end all well and with an all-out fight between Hamlet and Laertes (Djo Fisher) which results in a dramatic tragic finale. It is felt that the play ended suddenly and perhaps a brief epilogue of some tribute to Hamlet by the King of Norway could have been added in.
Supported by traditional staging and costumes, courtesy of Ken Taylor, Rich Francis and the creative team, this is a very good production and the Leeds Arts Centre must take pride in delivering Hamlet especially it being abridged. It did not compromise the spirit of the story, particularly its tragic elements, whatsoever and enthusiastically well received from the appreciative audience.