Hamlet runs in repertoire at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford, from 9 July - 2 October 2004.
RSC Ticket Hotline is 0870 609 1110, Monday to Saturday.
Review by site user David Chambers
I have only seen a handful of plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre but, cocooned inside the plush auditorium, I couldn’t help but be surprised by the intense atmosphere of excitement before the performance.
Tragedy and madness on stage
Hamlet is the last of the four plays in he Tragedies season, and is perhaps Shakespeare's most well known and often-quoted play.
Presenting Hamlet in a way that preserves its sparkle and potency is a challenge that the audience, it seemed, were eager to see confronted by the RSC.
As the lights went down the audience were presented with a crescendo of sound and action in great RSC fashion. Drums boomed from the eaves and actors spontaneously appeared from doors hidden in the set.
The appearance of the pale and very tangible spectre dragging a huge sword and grimacing at both audience and actors made for a very attention-grabbing and eerie start.
Revenge in the offering
Toby Stephens played the title role with a combination of youthful confidence, anger and mounting psychosis.
Unusually, the presence of the ghost and the validity of its message were never really thrown into doubt, putting the play’s emphasis more on Hamlet’s inner struggle with the acts of the real world than his personal sanity.
The laughter-full delivery of “Alas, poor Yorick…” reflected the actors upbeat interpretation of this enduring character.
Performance highlights were Richard Cordery's portrayal of Polonius and Greg Hicks' as spectre, player king and gravedigger.
It is no surprise to see that RSC favourite Hicks was given an Olivier nomination for his Shakespearean acting. His creative interpretation of the spectre was a superb display of physical theatre and the gravedigger’s bawdy dialogue also provided some endearing audience amusement.
Equally, Richard Cordery's jokes and cheeky nods and winks delivered to the crowd were skilfully employed to engage the audience.
Toby Stephens in Hamlet
The set was constructed as a high black wall arching around the back half of a circular stage floor. Throughout the play the actor’s entrances and exits were gracefully choreographed through a multitude of hidden doors.
Trademark variations in the colours and intensity of the lighting were also used to magnificent effect to emphasise different scenes. A sudden switch of all these components iwa utilised towards the end of the play to throw the stage into menacingly silhouetted black and white.
With the total performance abridged to just over three hours the RSC have made selected edits from the complete version of Hamlet. The pace and interest is maintained throughout with the final disastrous scene capping an altogether triumphant performance.