“Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
– Hamlet, W. Shakespeare
How many Hamlets per year is too many? One of Shakespeare’s classics has returned to Dublin. And those of you, who can’t find a way to escape the Festival madness, maybe should take the green line bound to Dundrum’s Mill Theatre.
It’s no secret that Shakespeare’s Hamlet has been staged an unimaginable amount of times. So when one goes to a play that one would have seen many times before, it’s not the big picture it’s the smallest details that make all the difference and allow one production to differ and stand out. Directed by Geoff O’Keeffe, this somewhat more traditional version of Hamlet is an almost three hour piece filled with action, reaction and emotion that won’t leave a single audience member indifferent.
The story of a murdered king (played by Neil Fleming) and his longing for vengeance son Hamlet (played by Shane O’Regan) unravels in one of the most beautiful decorations I’ve seen (designed by Gerard Bourke). It’s not even the set itself but the way it transforms from scene to scene that fascinates the wildest of imaginations: what starts as a castle ends up as a graveyard.
The creation of The Ghost of Hamlet’s father is always something to look forward to. The idea of casting the same character to play both parts, The Ghost and his villain brother Claudius, is quite fresh and ingenious. Projecting a picture of the character on different sides of the set was a very strong visual choice. It also created a proper otherworldly atmosphere. The moments of communication between father and son were breathtaking and quite chilling.
A very important part in a play like Hamlet is, no doubt, the game of light and shadow. The characters in the play always balance on the thin line between this and the other world. Kris Mooney’s design is flawless in general and especially when it comes to detail. The scene at the graveyard was impossible to take eyes off.
The mention of the costume designs (by Sinead Roberts) shouldn’t go astray either. It’s satisfying to see that many directors and designers choose to use more modern costumes for their Shakespearean productions nowadays. But a light touch of a somewhat more traditional design has never hurt anyone. This time, I loved the dark colours and the presence of the red in some characters’ attires. Ophelia’s (played by Clara Harte) dress, for example, said so much about her personality and the way it changed, it was eye-opening. It’s fascinating how much the colour balance (or disbalance for that matter) can enhance the perception.
All the above details, as you might have guessed already, create a very powerful visual piece. Now let’s get down to the acting side of it. O’Keeffe collected an undoubtedly strong cast of 12 actors, some playing more than one part. O’Regan’s Hamlet is an amazingly embodied and physical character. His voice, his movement, his engagement with fellow scene partners are pure joy to watch. One of the best things about watching a good production is that you never know whether it was the director or the actor him/herself who came with an interesting decision for a scene. At the end, it doesn’t matter, of course. It’s always a privilege to see the birth of a well-known character but as a different, new human being.
Another actor who unquestionably stood out for me was Brian Molloy, who played the roles of Player Queen (this one is always a winner), Messenger and Gravedigger. Astonishing but true, pardon for the cliché but there is no such thing as a small character. And Molloy is amazing at each and every part that he has portrayed in this play. Believe me, the piece is worth seeing just to watch him play the Gravedigger.
Hamlet at dlr Mill Theatre has shows available three times a day (see the link for more info), so no excuse to miss it! To book the tickets: http://www.milltheatre.ie/events/hamlet/