We all know the gist of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: a story of loss, grief, love, lust and ambition. A dangerous mix, especially when absorbed into sibling relationships wrapped in betrayal, revenge and repentance. But at the heart of all its reaching, universal layers is a story of family. A exploration into the basic mental and emotional balances each of us require.
This production of Hamlet certainly doesn’t disappoint my thoughts on the classic. Benet Brandreth plays the titular role of the Prince of Denmark; with Benet’s real-life father, Gyles Brandreth, portraying the ghost of Hamlet’s father and Claudius, Hamlet’s wicked uncle. Kosha Engler, the real-life wife of Benet, compliments the pair taking stage as Queen Gertrude and Ophelia.
So, yes. Father-in-law and daughter-in-law play husband and wife, while that wife plays mother to her husband. Within this fun, torrid affair Engler and Gyles Brandreth play other characters throughout the performance. Although attempts were made to demonstrate the changes to different characters with them either exiting and re-entering or light/sound effects, at times it was confusing. I know Hamlet well, and I feel you’d need a worthy understanding of Hamlet to follow this.
As always, the Park Theatre is an intimate space which admirably uses the whole of the small stage, so at times you’re looking at the actors backs and then at the emotions splayed across their faces. This is great for those moments of anger elaborately displayed in Hamlet and Ophelia’s distress.
The set was a simple farm house style kitchen with a large dining area. Peppered in was a sink, fridge and assorted cupboards. The actors jumped across the props, and stowed away below objects. This sensory movement stimulated the ups and downs of their emotional throws.
The cast and crew, including directors Simon Evans and David Aula, with script editor Imogen Bond, edited the play down to 90 minutes. They achieved this timeframe with fast-paced dialogue and added no lagging interval.
This fierce production is now performing at Park Theatre until 16th September. From Tuesday to Saturday at 19.45, with a Thursday and Saturday matinee at 15:15. Tickets are £18 with concessions and young patron prices available.
To go or not to go, that is the question. The answer is Hamlet.