Kate Herbert is theatre reviewer, Herald Sun, Melbourne & formerly for Melbourne Times. Kate is a director & produced playwright (20 plays). Scripts published by Currency Press. She worked as an actor, comedian, improviser & teacher of Acting, Improvisation & Playwriting. Kate is currently Convenor of Professional Writing & Editing, Swinburne University. Read her reviews here or at: www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/arts. NB Explorer Browser doesn't always work on blog.
HAMLET, Melbourne Theatre Company, Sumner Theatre, until August 31, 2011
WIDELY considered to be Shakespeare's perfect play, Hamlet is liberally seasoned with superbly crafted soliloquies, by its tortured youth, Prince Hamlet of Denmark (Ewen Leslie).
These sumptuous monologues are performed with consummate technique and profound passion by Leslie, who proved an impressive Shakespearean in Melbourne Theatre Company's Richard III.
Through them, we witness Hamlet's mental state and fraught choices: such as whether to extract vengeance by killing his uncle who murdered his father, the King.
During "To be or not to be", Leslie toys with a gun as Hamlet considers suffering his unbearable circumstances or taking action to end them.
Leslie's Hamlet is an innovative, thrilling interpretation, capturing Hamlets mania and secretiveness. He is the pounding heart of Simon Phillip's sleek, imaginative production.
Leslie embodies Hamlet's grief and impotence, his despair and sense of betrayal, in a performance that lurches from frenetic activity to deep depression.
Robert Menzies as the Ghost of Hamlet's dead father is painfully poignant, a faded, aged, powerless figure without the trappings of royalty, but with a craving for justice.
As the doomed Ophelia, Eryn Jean Norvill is splendid playing a sweet, playful, love-struck girl whose mind is then shattered by grief.
John Adam is a vigorous, youthful Claudius and Pamela Rabe an elegant, bemused Gertrude, though these two characters lack some subtlety and nuance at times.
Grant Cartwright is a noble and sympathetic Horatio while Garry McDonald finds humour and pathos in Polonius, playing him foolish but not clownish.
Phillip's production is contemporary with messages delivered by SMS and spies using hidden microphone.
The revolving stage design (Shaun Gurton) is stark and contemporary with towering, glass walls creating endless corridors disappearing into murky depths.
Characters secrete themselves behind glass walls and their duplicity is imitated in their reflections. Lighting (Nick Schlieper) evokes a grim atmosphere and allows scenes to appear dramatically in deep background and music (Ian McDonald) gives an eerie subtext.
Although there are some imbalances in the rhythm of the second half, the primary focus and beauty of this production resides with Leslie whose energy and commitment is compulsive watching.