Creation Theatre Company - Hamlet
13th July to 13th August 2016.
Review from the Newbury Weekly News.
Dark deeds in the park
Creation Theatre's provocative open air Hamlet
Creation Theatre: Hamlet, at the University Parks, Oxford, from July 13 to August 13
Beyond the cricket pitch and the outdoor tennis courts, at the far end of Oxford's University Parks, Creation Theatre Company have pitched their camper van and created the Danish castle Elsinore on the wide lawns in front of the large pond (designer, Ryan Dawson Laight).
The stage, or rather the lawn, features a dug grave – real earth, real sky above. Even theatregoers unfamiliar with the play will realise it will be filled. Intimations of horror invade the scenes from the start when Matt Easton's scratchy, scary sound effects haunt the battlements where the invisible ghost of Hamlet's father stalks the air.
Director Gari Jones likes his productions vibrant and provocative and thus Hamlet (Christopher York) has his face painted into a skeleton. He has probably been listening to too much Slipknot at university in Wittenberg. His friend Laertes (Gavin Molloy) describes the nihilism of the Danish youngsters as 'youth to itself rebels'. Suitably white-faced and attired like one of the droogs in A Clockwork Orange, Laertes, along with all the young characters, effects a menace that reflects the actual maleficence of the older generation.
Hamlet's girlfriend Ophelia (Natasha Rickman, in her second excellent role with Creation this year after her doubling of Goneril and Regan in King Lear) is a Pre-Raphaelite stunner, clearly a muse like the model from the Millais painting.
When she goes mad the herbs she refers to are seen in her own drawings that she attaches violently to the camper van. Potential mother-in-law Gertrude (Claire Andreadis) and new husband Claudius (Will Norris) are more Royle Family than royal, lounging coarsely on a sofa.
Creation have recently followed a gender-equality in casting. One result is that Clare Humphrey plays Polonius as Ophelia's mother (surely she should be called Polonia?) and indeed, all Humphrey's roles are originally male. She is a natural comic and brings a welcome levity to the production.
The grungy music is effective, although the lift muzak that accompanies key scenes is distracting. With playing time of only two hours, it's a skip through the play but this abridged Hamlet is coherent and entertaining.