|Riverside's Hamlet is a Clumsy Adaptation of a Classic|
This modern version set in a prison is a disappointment, says Penny Flood
Hamlet at the Riverside was a disappointment. It’s billed as a "visceral and unflinching exploration of isolation, paranoia and revenge". Which is fair enough, because that’s how Shakespeare wrote it.
But the production company, Hiraeth Artistic Productions, claims to be dedicated to creating exciting and stylistically innovative theatre and that’s not what happened here.
They’ve taken the original script, lobbed off two hours, not a bad thing as the original is four hours long, added some nudity and the sort of foul language you’d expect to hear at a football match, and set the whole thing in a Liverpool prison.
Instead of offering a new take on classic, it just comes across as a clumsy adaptation. If I hadn’t read the press release I would never have known that in this production, Hamlet is the son of the city’s most infamous crime lord. He might have mentioned it when he was being admitted to prison but I couldn’t hear what he said because of a raucous blast of music.
Setting Hamlet in a prison in Liverpool made the all the chat about Denmark rather ridiculous, along with the fact that the inmates were old friends and, apart from some awkward shifting of bars between scenes and a few fights, they could have been in a pub or any social setting.
Joyce Greenaway as his mother Gertrude is great, starting out as an unpleasant, slightly vulgar woman who seems to be satisfied about what’s going on around her, but transforms into a loving mother who truly cares for her distraught son.
And Jessica White is lovely as the fragile, tragic Ophelia, whose descent into madness and subsequent suicide is handled beautifully by some clever lighting.
And that’s my last review from the Riverside Studios for at least two years, maybe forever, as it’s going to be demolished and rebuilt. I have no doubt the transformation will be a good thing, but I’ve been coming here since it first opened and have grown fond of its awkwardness and its nooks and crannies, and I’m going to miss it.
I hope when it returns they continue to give young production companies, like Hiraeth, the opportunity to show their works, to carry on experimenting and exploring new ways of looking at the world, even if they’re not my cup of tea.
May 28, 2014