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Review: Hamlet at Newcastle Alphabetti

Another Shakespearean Triumph


Newcastle Alphabetti Theatre – Until Saturday 11th June 2016

Stanley Alun Armstrong Theatre –
Thursday 16th June 2016

Cranked Anvil return with another hit by William Shakespeare. This version of Hamlet is a lean mean fighting machine.  The end result is relevant and accessible; fascinating and watchable. If it encourages the audience to explore the Bard’s work then it has been a success.

Hamlet is possibly the most popular and most frequently produced Shakespearean play. Littered with sayings and catchphrases that have entered the regular lexicon of the English Language. Yet the bulk of the story is much more than the sum of these often quoted parts. Director Paul Dunn has relocated the action to Newcastle’ Quayside and created a show with Tarantino-esque action.

Elsinore’s is a trendy cafĂ© bar which acts as a cover for the seedy underworld of organised crime. The leader has died and the opening scene takes place at the wake. Halmet (Paul Dunn) is understandably upset at losing his father.  Adding to his vitriol is the thought that his mother Gertrude (Patricia Whale) has married his father’s brother Claudius (James Barton). The family adviser Polonius (Sean Kenney) tries to mediate but a visit from the ghost of his father (John McMahon) confirms that Hamlet’s father was murdered and that he should seek revenge.

The bar’s singer, and Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia (Natasha Haws) likes Hamlet but is advised by Polonius and Laertes to keep a wide berth. Fortunately Hamlet has a trusty friend in the shape of bar man Horatio (David Foster). Adding to the problems such as mixed messages that Hamlet gets, are hench men such as the inseparable Rosencrantz (Wayne Miller) and Guildenstern (Andrew Dawson), and Osric (Lee McShane).

In a journey which would not be out of place in a soap opera like Eastenders, Hamlet finds himself with few allies and an ever increasing need for revenge.

Just like in their recent production of Romeo and Juliet, the fight scenes, choreographed by Wayne Miller,  see the cast stotting off the walls of the venue.

We attended the show with our 13 year old son who loved it. He felt the show had a familiar tone as revenge leads to bloodshed.

Music adds a flavour to the show. David Jackson plays the music confidently and Natasha Haws has the opportunity to express her quality as a vocalist. 

For sure, this production is trimmed down from one of William Shakespeare’s longer scripts. The end result keeps the plot, keeps the famous lines, keeps the feel and vitality but loses the baggage that turns a longer show into an ordeal. It makes the story accessible without dumbing it down. The story moves from the original royal tale in Denmark to the banks of Tyne easily enough such is the quality of the original script.

Hamlet is a popular and engaging drama. The move of the setting to Tyneside has been successful and the capacity audience appreciated the quality of the acting on show. We look forward to the next production, Henry V, with keen anticipation.

This review was written by Stephen Oliver for Jowheretogo PR ( Follow Jo on twitter @jowheretogo, Stephen @panic_c_button or like Jowheretogo on Facebook

Age Recommendation: 12+


Alphabetti Theatre, Tuesday 7 – Saturday 11 June, 7.30pm. 
Price: £7 Full Price / £5 Concession (Student, OAP, Artist) BOOK ONLINE HERE. Box office: 0191 261 5906

Stanley Alun Armstrong Theatre, 16 June, 7.00pm.  Box office:  01207 299 110

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