Review: Shakespeare perfectly distilled in Hamlet!

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Hamlet! CoIn Theatre Company, Bear Pit Theatre, Stratford. April 9-11

Hamlet! is Hamlet distilled. Not lite. Distilled.

This fast, intimate adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous play is performed by just three actors.

They hold the stage and the audience in the palms of their six hands.

No costumes, very few props. Just the action, the emotions, and the language.

As in the original, all the attention is on the eponymous hero. Hamlet (Benny Ainsworth) struts his stuff upon the stage with the angst and wit that the part demands.

We see the boy for what he is – passionate, self-righteous, yet torn by conflicting moral compulsions.

Hamlet! gives us some of the play’s most famous scenes. There is the gravedigger scene, with the old rustic played as a marvellous clown by Natsumi Kuroda, who also plays a most tragic Ophelia and a stiff-backed Queen Gertrude.

There is the scene in which Hamlet stabs Polonius behind the arras. Ben LaMontagne Schenk plays him and the King and Laertes with great power.

There is the play scene, and one of the ghost scenes, and many others you’ll recognise.

As one would hope with Shakespeare it is the language that is the real star, and this pared down version, delivered with great skill and dexterity, allows it and the characters to really shine.

The company is due to take the show on an international tour. But will also take it to the streets of Stratford on Saturday, as well as the Bear Pit stage where it is perfectly at home.

Catch them if you can.

Rating 9/10

By Nick Le Mesurier