fringe: hamlet

adelaide fringe: hamlet
In much the same way that the original performances of Shakespeare's plays included young men in the women's roles, the Raw Shakespeare Project takes that idea and flips it on it's head somewhat, casting young women as both Hamlet (Leah Anderson) and Horatio (Jess Carroll).

And by leaving the rest of the cast in their traditional gender roles makes the whole play feel somehow more modern given Hamlet's relationships with her uncle-king (there's definitely a level of sleaze there on his part), her friend Guildenstern and the object of her affection, Ophelia.

The cast made great use of the layout of the location (Brick+Motar in Norwood), with the raised entrance as the stage, two sets of stairs and a ramp. Because the venue is a cafe in it's regular life the additional set dressing was minimal, just a painted sheet and a wooden box, both of which served as various items at different points.

On the whole the performances were excellent, but I have to give special mention to Aarod Vawser who plays Laertes, Guildenstern and the Player Villain in the play within the play. Of all the cast he seemed to be the most invested in his characters, and he wasn't just reciting the words, he was performing every phrase with a level of character and emotion that was just spot on. So much so that when he returned as Laertes and discovers the death of his sister I was genuinely moved by his grief. And he was just the right amount of crazy as Guildenstern. Keep an eye on his name, because I have no doubt he will go on to great things.

In the title role, Leah Anderson was definitely impressive, although because Hamlet spends much of the play in a state of melancholy and anger, I found that she did deliver a lot of her dialogue in the first half of the play through very closed teeth while speaking very fast. It was a stylistic choice, certainly, but it did occasionally render some of her words as a stream of sound rather than speech.

Ellie McPhee really shines once Ophelia goes mad (although really, is there all that much to Ophelia before that point, she's a little bland)... especially the choice to get her to sing parts of her madness, genuinely disturbed.

I wasn't completely convinced by Russell Slater's vocal choice for King Claudius... somewhere between Christopher Walken and an Eastern European Bond villain... but he is the director as well.

The costuming was interesting... especially Hamlet's black on black on black, complete with corset and an amazing long jacket. Vawser has the most changes of costume with his three very different characters (of which I think I liked the Player Villain one the most), but he does some good costume acting with his Guildenstern cloak.

As I mentioned before, the dynamic between McPhee and Anderson was interesting as beyond changing pronouns there were no other changes due to the casting of a woman in the title role. But to be honest it was more when other characters were talking about the two of them that I noticed it more (including the problem of changing references from he and her to her and her means it's occasionally harder to know which of the two characters they're talking about).

It was an interesting take on the Danish play though.

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