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Hamlet! The Musical

Friday, 13 August, 2010

Edinburgh – Pleasance Courtyard – 4 – 30 Aug 10 – 17:00 (1.00)

A cast of six brings Shakespeare’s Hamlet up to date in Hamlet! The Musical, playing in a balmy venue in Edinburgh’s Pleasance Courtyard.  As the five supporting actors move skilfully and seamlessly between multiple characters, the result is a fast paced and funny show.

This is not so much ‘Hamlet’, as ‘what Hamlet is about’, so it is not necessary to know the play in advance.  Rather, an introduction of sorts is on offer for children or adults alike.  Sharp and witty, the light-hearted humour and teen speak help to move the focus from the old English usually associated with Hamlet.  Along with catchy pop and rock tunes, and over-the-top camp characters, the way is paved for some feel-good fun of the musical variety.

Is this a picture of the cast I see before me?

However, fast, funny and farcical does not equate to hasty here, as the cast is clearly well rehearsed, with all lines perfectly learnt and scene transition smooth.  Throughout, every actor gives it his all, from vocal projection to body language and facial expression, resulting in some energy fuelled performances to raise spirits.  Jack Shalloo as Hamlet and Jess Robinson as Ophelia are exceptional in their convincing portrayal of today’s troubled teens facing timeless parental problems.  On top of the usual hang-ups and dating dramas any teenager might encounter, this pair finds it really annoying that their parents keep betraying one other, leaving the teenagers with difficult dilemmas.  But Jack Shalloo’s Hamlet is less the tortured existentialist and more the Harry Enfield teenager, sulking and huffing at his parents, and indulging in fantasies of being cooler, leading to some enjoyably obscure songs and hairdos.  His character appears in dress, stance and attitude, as a likeable rogue, who might have stepped straight off a council estate, complete with a regional cockney accent.  Rosencrantz and Guildenstern provide slapstick humour which will appeal to children, with their falsetto voices and oversized human heads perched on puppet bodies.  An atmosphere of pantomime prevails.

With catchy, original tunes, belted out to the accompaniment of a live orchestra, the musical talent heard here will rival any else to be seen at the fringe.  Hamlet’s rich singing voice is a sweet surprise, incongruous to his rough and ready appearance, and Ophelia’s voice is impressively powerful with an extraordinary range.  The remaining cast support with a variety of strong solos, tuneful harmonies and rousing chorus numbers.

While puppetry, pop songs and limitless laughter abound, the result may be a little too slapstick and slapdash for anyone expecting a serious piece of musical theatre. However, with its musical and acting talent, and pantomime style signed with a singalong ending, Hamlet! The Musical should prove to be a great show for the family to enjoy together.

Cast credits:  Phile Cole – Polonius / Gravedigger.  Virge Gilchrist – Gertrude / Gravedigger.       Mark Inscoe – The Ghost / Claudius.  Jess Robinson – Horatio / Ophelia / Rosencrantz.  Jack Shalloo – Hamlet.  Stephen Web – Laertes / Guildenstern.

Company credits:  Writers – Ed Jaspers, Timothy Knapman and Alex Silverman.  Director – Ryan McBride.  Musical Director – Leo Nicholson.  Choreographer – Abigail Rosser.  Set Designer – Simon Scullion.  Costume Designer – Mia Flodquist.  Lighting Designer – Ben Cracknell.  Sound Designer – Richard Ryan/Mike Walker.  Puppet Designer – Simon Buckley.  Stage Manager – Molly Campbell.  Sound Operator – Robin Conway and Tom Pickering.  Production Manager – William Hill.  Publicity Designer – Pete Le May.  Photographer – Steve Ullathorne.  Producer – Eleanor Lloyd.

Reviewed Wednesday 11 August 2010, / Pleasance Courtyard Edinburgh UK

(c) Claire Higgins

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