The very much up-and-coming Michael Benz takes on the title role, with the rest of the cast doubling around him – Gertrude is also the second gravedigger, for instance, while Guildenstern and Rosencrantz double as Laertes and Osric, to name just a couple of switches. Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckland have created an extremely physical production, full of thrilling fights and fun dances, mediums which allow the switches to subtly take place.
Benz is a brilliant and versatile Hamlet, with both excellent comic timing and strong dramatic skills within his repertoire. He commands the stage with ease, utter silence falling in the theatre as each famous speech falls from his lips. His Hamlet is clever and anguished, furious at what has been done to his father, sane but unseeing of the fate that awaits him. Formerly of the Globe’s As You Like It, as well as Trevor Nunn’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Benz is certainly one to watch.
The cuts to the text can feel a touch shocking, leaping as they do through whole sections in just a few moments, but on the whole they work exceedingly well, keeping even small children focused and intrigued.
Although the entire cast is strong, Miranda Foster as Gertrude and Dickon Tyrell as Claudius in particular stand out, both managing to create clever subtleties, Foster in particular commanding sympathy through the emotional wreckage of Gertrude's confrontation with Hamlet. Although Christopher Saul’s Polonius is a touch reminiscent of Oliver Ford Davies’ in places, he manages to make the old man truly funny, a task that not many actors manage to achieve.
As the play draws to a close, and true tragedy strikes all, you're ready to see it all over again. All that needs to be said, really.
Catch this if you can.