Being one of the top drama schools in the world, why shouldn’t Guildhall attempt to put on one of the best – and one of the hardest to perform –Shakespearean plays, Hamlet? I say attempt, but it was more than that, as this production seemed painless to them. Yes, the third year Guildhall students have done it again – blown us away with a great interpretation of a legend’s play.
With misty air and a bare stage, filled only with hanging black cloaks and wooden chairs, the sparse scenery adds an irony to this chaotic play and gives space for the whirlwind that the audience go through while watching Hamlet. The director Jo McInnes has favourably used gender blind casting, so the show opens with Paige Carter playing Hamlet, undoubtedly adding a unique edge to this archetypal character. However, as the play continues, Hamlet is played by three other actors to represent the protagonist’s unstable and fluctuating state of mind throughout. Each of them adds their own flavour to the role, especially Joe Eyre who portrays Hamlet’s madness in the renowned Queen’s closet scene with such conviction that I could almost feel everybody in the audience tense up. Along with him, Faith Alabi is beyond suited to the beautiful and confusing character of Queen Gertrude.
I have no concerns about these actors suffering many loose ends within their acting career once they leave Guildhall, as once you astound an audience in a Shakespeare play, you probably have not got much else to worry about. The two actors I expect to be taking on big roles in the future are Rosemary Boyle, who played an enchanting and multi-dimensional Ophelia, and Jacob Fortune-Lloyd, who played her father, Polonius. Also exceptional in his role, he constantly makes the audience laugh and gasp.
There was not one point where I questioned this interpretation of Hamlet. Everything about the staging – from the holes in the floor as an eerie metaphorical alternative to a grave, to the guitarists and violinist walking on playing at crucial moments – proved to be interesting choices. One great success of any production is using simplicity, yet making something memorable out of it, which is exactly what the Guildhall students have done with Hamlet.
Without any hesitation, theatre lovers who have yet to see a production at Guildhall should definitely head down there sometime soon, as they are yet to disappoint.
Hamlet is playing at The Milton Court Studio until 22 February. See The Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s website for tickets and more information.