Review: Hamlet, The Helix, Dublin
IT'S not so much something rotten in the state of Denmark as something rotten in the Drawing Room, with Second Age's dressing of Hamlet in early Victorian costume.
Claudius (Garrett Keogh), the foul, strange and unnatural murderer of Hamlet's father, is a stiff-lipped plutocrat; Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Will O'Connell/Marcus Lamb) are a couple of Dickensian drips; while the culpable Gertrude (Barbara Brennan), Hamlet's mother, totters round like an aghast dowager in whalebone corsets.
Stephen Brennan is in full-blown Noel Coward mode, shamelessly playing the fastidious Polonius for laughs. The stuffy atmosphere needs a few laughs but his flapping comic death, stabbed by Hamlet through a nylon curtain hastily dropped from the flyloft, is simply ludicrous.
The ghost of Hamlet's father is another mistake. Rather than the pale sorrowful wraith of the battlements of Elsinore, we have director Alan Stanford imitating Darth Vader over the sound system. Why does he urge Hamlet to revenge, when he could just blast Claudius himself from his Death Star?
With most of the morbid, mysterious atmosphere of the tragedy neutered by the Victorian clothing and deportment, and a sometimes dizzying lack of connectedness between scenes, the onus is on Marty Rea to redeem the production.
He does, thankfully, bring all his wirey finesse to bear on the trickiest role in theatre. The Victorian mourning costume suits his spare figure, and, though he's too rushed by the pace of the production, Hamlet's familiar soliloquies sound cracklingly fresh, new, and above all, pertinent.
One directorial touch I did like was the pretend penalty shot Hamlet takes at Yorick's skull; it livens up what must be the most hackneyed scene in all Shakespeare.
But some of the most crucial scenes of the play, particularly the Players' re-enacting of Claudius's regicide, are slabs of slack garish flatness, despite Hamlet's presence. In the words of the play itself: one woe doth tread upon another's heel.