20th Feb 2018
Simon Godwin's Hamlet is a revelation. No sign here of any stuffy classical Shakespeare, the play bursts onto the stage in a riot of noise and colour - drums, chanting, singing, clapping, dancing...costumes that are exquisitely shaped and coloured, bright prints for the queen, bold suits and ties for the king and the courtiers, camouflage fatigues for the soldiers.
Lorna Brown plays the beautiful Queen Gertrude with elegance and grace, while Clarence Smith struts and swaggers as the new King Claudius, preening like a peacock and exhibiting all the lustful inclinations which so disgust his nephew. In contrast to their peacock feathered preening, Hamlet appears in black and grey, hands shoved into pockets of a hoodie, still mourning his father he stands apart from the court, the only one not rejoicing at his mother and uncle's marriage. Paapa Essiedu fills the role of Hamlet with such grace and presence, from his righteous anger at the unseemly speed of the marriage, to his antics feigning madness, his performance is captivating.
This is a play of contrasts - from the colourful revelry of the court, and the travelling players, to Hamlet's dark brooding anger. From the sweetness of Ophelia's relationship with her father Polonious (Joseph Mydell) and brother Laertes (Buom Tihngang) and the beauty of her love for Hamlet set against his own distrust, and the lustful relationship between the king and queen. After her father's death, Ophelia's madness is absolute and real, and could not be further from Hamlet's controlled mimicry of madness. Mimi Ndiweni's depiction is utterly convincing, as she veers from childlike singing, to wretched wailing - a million miles from the happy, carefree girl she was in the earlier scenes.
Throughout the production the performances are outstanding, even down to the scene changes which seem almost choreographed. The whole production is dynamic and energetic. It's a masterpiece and a privilege to watch.
Hamlet plays until 24th February and is quite rightly sold out!