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HAMLET (article first published : 2003-03-1)

This would not be my choice of interpretation of Hamlet but then the production is not aimed at people like me who have either acted in Shakespeare productions or seen them performed on numerous occasions. It’s aimed at learners trying to make sense of Shakespeare’s text, trying to find the story amidst the – at first exposure – unfamiliar and highly convoluted language.

Shakespeare wrote for the common man, creating stories that would fire their imagination. Garth Anderson has produced a Hamlet along these lines, extracting full drama from every scene. The pace is fast and there are many moments that crackle with energy.

Alright, this means that you end up with a Danish prince prone to wild behaviour who looks as if he’s on speed but the youngsters respond with delight and enthusiasm to the visual energy. And If that makes them understand Hamlet better and want to become more acquainted with Shakespeare’s work, this version’s got my vote.

Tonight’s performance seemed to start off on an uneven keel, taking a while before it gelled and settled down but this was probably due to the fact that it was the third show of the day. The cast, particularly Neil Coppen, should be handed medals for stamina!

Neil Coppen has come a long way since I first saw him on stage and his performance ability has grown considerably. I liked his “What a piece of work is man” speech and the beginning of “To be or not to be”. He gave a consistent performance throughout, handling the text well. Margaret Logan was gracious and feminine as Gertrude and Jodi Black produced an initial low-key Ophelia before turning into a somewhat demented spirite as the character goes mad. Garth Anderson, rock solid in Shakespeare as always, was a good Claudius.

Bryan Hiles invariably comes over as Mr Nice Guy which means that he was well suited in the role of Hamlet’s trusty friend Horatio. Doubling in other roles, Dean Roberts and Edward Berridge produced subtley sinister moods as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern while Rowan Bartlett generated much humour as the garrulous Polonius.

Joel Zuma brings dignity to the Player King and was a humorous gravedigger. Oded Rouche, another actor showing much promise, was Laertes and Eryl Raymond was a spirited Player Queen. David Cowley, first seen in Garth’s Izinganekwane, is showing signs of a competent actor in the making.

Garth Anderson has a good affinity with young people and knows how to make them respond well. With a basic set and Mike Broderick’s dramatic lighting, he is to be commended on this production which will undoubtedly keep high school learners studying the play on the edge of their seats. If you are able to catch the next public performance on March 28 at the Courtyard Theatre, I urge you to do so.

Hamlet plays the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre until the end of the week before heading for the Hilton College Theatre, then it comes back to Westville for performances at the Civic Centre. After this will be a week at The Courtyard Theatre. – Caroline Smart




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