Quietus – The Questors Theatre, London

Reviewer: Louise Burns

Writer and Director: Nicholas Jonne Wilson

Quietus, written by Nicholas Jonne Wilson, is an exploration of madness in Hamlet. Reimagined as Theatre of the Grotesque through movement and stylised staging, second year students of the Questors Academy vividly create a surreal world with Gothic elements of horror and the supernatural. This visually interesting production is at times disorientating but when examining grief discovers some moving moments.

In a fitful sleep, Hamlet re-lives his story. He confronts his mother, challenges the new King, kills Polonius, and loses Ophelia. His dream becomes a nightmare when visited by supernatural creatures. They appear to be manifestations of Hamlet’s psyche, but spill into the world of the play as daemons who control his thoughts, as well as those of Ophelia and Gertrude. ‘Quietus’ is a medieval word which can translate to ‘he is quit’, or discharge on payment of a debt. In this short one hour play we see Hamlet’s version of events as he unsuccessfully seeks release from the play.

Wilson’s balletic stylised choreography is exact but at times obstructs the story. At one point a prolonged erotic dream slips into the bizarre. However, the ensemble cast creates memorable moments when finding a balance between this alternative interpretation and ‘being not too tame, but letting discretion be their tutor’. Ophelia’s flower scene is shared with her intimidating daemon (Isabella Cottrell Kirby) taunting Ophelia with a selection of herbs. Arabella Jacobson’s Ophelia visibly struggles to choose the right ones, and the actor is affecting as she drowns in confusion.

With precise movements, Nathaniel Flynn-Murphy captures a naturalistic Hamlet living in an absurd world. His ‘words, words, words’ response to Claudius is great fun as he opens an umbrella punctured with holes. What also comes across well is Hamlet’s grief at killing Polonius, as Flynn-Murphy’s Hamlet realises his action has inevitable consequences.

The pace is sometimes too slow and the lyrical delivery of dialogue occasionally masks meaning, but crucially character relationships are clear, and this is an impressive young company. There is terrific lighting support from Martin Stoner who contrasts stark bright light with moody atmospheric sequences. Janet Auvache and Helen Karasiewicz’s costumes elevate the nightmarish world with a mix of modern and Elizabethan dress, ranging from Ophelia’s flowing silk dress subtly splatted with river mud, to bright red gloved hands for daemons.

When the script plays with the surreal, there is perhaps too much ambiguity with eight actors in search of a play, but back in the world of Hamlet there are clever conceits that present a different perspective on the characters’ states of mind.

Runs until 26 June 2021

The Reviews Hub Score

Surreal gothic madness   

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