When it comes to Shakespeare, you go into a play with a fairly good understanding and expectation (providing you’ve read or seen his work in some form previously, which most people have). And so it becomes more than just being what the play is about, it’s the interpretation of said play that we look at.
So why have just one Hamlet when you can have three? And female too, which isn’t something we should be balking at because why shouldn’t we mix up the genders. What was interesting with this version of Hamlet was that the changing gender was acknowledged and switched between depending on which Hamlet was on stage.
Sharon Singh, Max Calandrew and Izabella Urbanowicz all took on the brooding Dane at various stages throughout the play, each bringing something different to the mix. Singh, taking on the role first, brought the more vulnerable and emotional side of Hamlet, something that can be overlooked at times.
Calandrew followed with a fantastic and impassioned Act II scene II speech that gave me goosebumps, moving into the famous “To be or not to be” that started off with everyone laughing…not something you’d normally expect to see in such a play. Finally, Urbanowicz was the angry Hamlet fighting for vengeance. But what was beautiful in this was that they were all Hamlet and, though they changed roles, you felt they were part of the same person.
This is not however a one man show. We have other key figures in Hamlet. King Claudius (Pete Collis) and Polonius (Gil Sutherland) both had a suave, almost gangster like nature to their characters, whereas Gertrude (Pia Lanciotti) and Ophelia (Diana Gomez) gave evocative performances of broken women. Ophelia especially is a character I love and feel connected to; there was this soft but lusting nature to Ophelia here, she wasn’t a wallflower but a pawn pushed over the edge. I also want to highlight Eva Savage’s comic timing, which added an effortless humour throughout.
Like most of Shakespeare the staging was minimal, with great use of lighting and curtains that added those little touches which, along with the modern clothes, created a contemporary feel to proceedings.
It was one of the best Hamlets I’ve seen on stage and I want to see more from Shakespeare Peckham.
Hamlet is on at the CLF Theatre at The Bussy Building until 27 Feb 2016. For more information click here.