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One and One - Hamlet

10th to 12th October 2002, at New Greenham Arts

This is the Newbury Weekly News review.

Hamlet and curate's eggs

'HAMLET', performed by One and One, at New Greenham Arts, on Thursday, October 10

This Hamlet started with a kind of tableau, various characters looking outwards and challenging: "Who's there?" while Allegri's 'Miserere' played in the background, the whole replacing the first scene of the play. I don't mind that; this was a small cast production and some cuts were inevitable to avoid doubling the smaller parts.

More worrying was the change at the end. The whole point of the 'friendly' duel between Hamlet and Laertes is that it has been engineered as a means of using a poisoned sword to dispose of Hamlet as if by unfortunate accident. When Claudius has to slip Laertes a dagger half-way through a fight in which no knives are used I think that even the most pedestrian of Plods might have suspected foul play.

I also found the use of Fanshawe's 'African Sanctus' to open the second half bewildering: what on Earth were we to make of that? Or was it hoped that we wouldn't recognise it, just taking it as a bit of atmospheric music?

That said, I otherwise very much enjoyed Pete Watt's well-paced direction, which made particularly good use of the stage, although I have a personal preference for soliloquies rather than monologues. He was helped by some fine acting, from the ladies in particular.

Gail Kemp was engagingly excellent as Polonius, Laura Hamblin gave us a text-book mad scene as Ophelia, and Sanna Nobbs created a Gertrude who seemed slightly more uncertain of her choice than usual.

Unfortunately, this play ultimately stands or falls by the central character, and I was totally unconvinced by Jonathan Race's Hamlet. Whatever else Hamlet may be (and there is massive scope for interpretation of that), he is not the boy next door. He is a Prince and is in an extraordinary situation; take it from there. Mr. Race seldom conjured up the necessary spark. Speaking quickly does not impart spirit, it merely makes the lines gabbled.

In direct contrast, James Elliott's Horatio demanded attention whenever he was on stage, bringing energy and passion to his role: he was the one I cared about, not Hamlet