Writer: William Shakespeare
Director: Terry Hands
Reviewer: Taylor Simmons
‘What a piece of work is a man!’
Over his eighteen years as Resident Artistic Director of Clwyd Theatr Cymru, Terry Hands has carved himself a legacy – and with Hamlet his legacy is certainly confirmed. As Shakespeare’s longest play – and one which is frequently performed, analysed and interpreted – Hands certainly had a task in his capable hands!
From the outset, the sense of tragedy and illusion is immediately established with the use of monochromatic costumes and mirrors incorporated into the set. amid the shadows, we understand that things are not what they seem nor should we rely on our sight or other senses. The lighting, designed by Hands himself, perfectly conveys this atmosphere – the use of darkness and shadows often conveying and confirming the play’s underlying key themes.
Through the first class casting, we are treated to the language of the bard – handled with skill, clarity and loaded with action. Lee Haven-Jones, as Hamlet, immediately immerses you into a state of apprehension with his capricious portrayal of the title character. His charged physicality and his erratic changes of tone, pitch and emphasis drives you deep into the troubled psyche that only Hamlet can inhabit. He is matched in class and skill by Simon Dutton as Claudius. His commanding tone and weighty experience allows Claudius to appear in control and majestic, while at other times weak and guilt-ridden.
Caryl Morgan as Ophelia shone brightly in her rôle. Often Ophelia is portrayed as a serious vulnerable character but Morgan’s interpretation allowed a youthful playfulness to come through – particularly in her scenes with Laertes. This only strengthens our later empathy for her character when a huge contrast of character/ performance is required. Morgan proves she is certainly up to the job and performs with great intensity, fragility and truth.
The decision to extend the stage into the audience was inspired, thus allowing the audience to be immersed into the action closely. My only real disappointment was with the decisions around the Ghost of Hamlet’s father. With such a simple powerful set, and the overall traditional feel of the production, the use of projection didn’t seem to fit in with the production as a whole and, as a result, thislessened the impact and intensity of the scene.
Nevertheless, the overall production is powerful, eerie and unsettling proving, once again, that one of Shakespeare’s best works is in the right hands.
Runs until 7th March, 2015 | Photo: Catherine Ashmore