The first Hamlet I’ve truly believed in. (Review by Caroline Smart)
Think Theatre in association with The Playhouse Company, is presenting its annual Shakespeare production although this year sees two of his tragedies being offered for matric school learners: Alongside a revival of Think Theatre’s widely acclaimed Othello is a new staging of Hamlet.
There was a public performance of Hamlet on March 1 and the audience’s response gave an indication of how well it is being received by its target audience.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is a complex role to play. The young man is an emotional mess. He’s in love; grieving for his two-months dead father; enraged that his mother has remarried so quickly; steadfastly loyal to close friends; suspicious of his uncle and fired with revenge for his father’s murder.
These are the challenges and emotional demands that faced Bryan Hiles when director Clare Mortimer cast him in the role. It was an excellent choice. This is a modern-day Prince of Denmark with an innate sense of humour while at the same time respecting Shakespeare’s language and characterisation. I’ve seen numerous Hamlets but Bryan’s is the first one I’ve truly believed in.
Also impressing – especially in the final moments - is Nhlakanipho Manqele as Hamlet’s friend Horatio; Clare Mortimer as Hamlet’s mother Gertrude, and Michael Gritten as Claudius, Hamlet’s traitorous stepfather. Cara Roberts was a charming and fragile Ophelia with a solid performance by Marc Kay as her brother Laertes. The fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes was powerful and credible.
Mortimer has made the most of opportunities for comedy. Darren King brought moments of amusement as the pompous Polonius and Rowan Bartlett was a delight as the Gravedigger (one of the four roles he portrays!). Chris van Rensburg and Straw Nzimande were suitably two-faced as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet’s friends who betray him. The cast was rounded out with Kirsty Ndawo appearing in the shadow play sequences.
The other impressive aspect of this cast is that they are all in both Hamlet and Othello with Nhlakanipho Manqele taking the role of Othello. So, they could be doing both productions in one day or one of each!
Hamlet and Othello will play in the Playhouse Drama until March 24, with schools performances from Mondays to Fridays at 09h00 and 12h00 daily. Performances will also be given in Richards Bay on March 22 and Port Shepstone on March 23.
Supported by The University of Johannesburg, Think Theatre’s Hamlet and Othello will go on to play at the University of Johannesburg from May 8 to 19 and at the Brooklyn Theatre in Pretoria from May 22 to 26. Outreach performances at Pretoria University from May 29 to June 2 are yet to be confirmed. All bookings through Doreen Stanley on 033 343 4884 or 084 556 0668 or email Doreen@thinktheatre.co.za.
Follow Hamlet and Othello on Facebook, and keep up to date with production news at #ThinkTheatreHamlet and #ThinkTheatreOthello on Facebook and Twitter. – Caroline Smart