THEATRE – HAMLET – Goodwood Institute – 4K

Hamlet1.jpeg-1006-283x400By Peter Maddern

After a month of, at times, mindless shows at the Fringe, taking on three hours of Shakespeare more than sweeps out of one any lingering post Madness malaise. Last winter Rob Croser’s Independent Theatre ambitiously took on The Great Gatsby at The Space; emboldened by its success, but now in its more familiar surroundings of the Goodwood Institute, the testing Hamlet is their focus.

The proportion of the modern audience who find Shakespeare a delight can often be matched or even exceeded by those for whom the language is an uncompromising challenge but if the widely held enjoyment of many of the Bard’s jokes in last night’s show is any measure, IT’s Hamlet has succeeded in making a four hundred year old text accessible to even the most inexperienced patron of the theatre.

Of course, none of that would be possible without a compelling player as Hamlet and in that Will Cox, as he did in Gatsby, triumphs. From schitzo to schemer, friend or foe, Cox convincingly swings his character’s mood and manipulations (or is it just his madness) to suit whoever he must. In fact Cox so dominates proceedings – not just within the script but with his presence on the stage – that his fellow players were spot on acknowledging his achievement during the curtain calls.

Indeed, in his wake, it was hard to identify others who shone; yet that in no way should be read as criticism. The nearest one got as an adequate foil, both metaphorically and physically was Jett Zitkovic, confident and compelling as Guildenstern but more particularly as Laertes. Both Madeleine Herd (as Ophelia) and Bronwyn Ruciak (as Gertrude) had their moments (to the extent women get a say in Shakespeare’s world) and David Roach also hit heights as Polonius and the Gravedigger, where his leadership made the whole cemetery scene a delight.

No review would be complete without mention of the staging. Rob Croser and Roach’s stage design triumph where less is more. With a Danny Boyle flourish, the stage is one large circular disc sloping down towards the audience, making the aforementioned grave digging stanza particularly captivating. More than effective use of side lighting by Susan Grey-Gardner kept the tempestuous themes of the play to the fore with much of it appropriately played out seemingly in the dark of night.

All in all, Hamlet is another triumph by Rob Croser and his team with Will Cox more than worth the price of admission.

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