Review: Hamlet Peckham

Anthony Green has approached this production from an innovative angle, having cast three Hamlets in the title role, each taking on a section of the play; three strong, and incredibly different performances from Sharon Singh (‘The Problem’), Max Calandrew (‘The Plan’) and Izabella Urbanowicz (‘The Solution’). Beforehand I wondered if having three Hamlet’s would destroy the arc and journey that takes place when one actor experiences playing the role from start to finish, but in this production we are enabled to experience a multifaceted Hamlet, each actor representing a different aspect to the character. Ultimately, it didn’t bother me in the slightest. We dreamt in to it, in the same way we can dream in to Hamlet as a woman; all white and all male Shakespeare for ‘historical accuracy’, has been criticised heavily over the past 18 months. I have seen several productions of late that prove neither race or gender actually make a difference to the story. There was something delightfully pleasing in hearing the phrase ‘Frailty thy name is woman’ spoken boldly by a female Hamlet, it’s 2016, it’s about time.

The choice for the characters to play the parts as their own gender, with neither striking masculine or feminine characteristics worked well, I much preferred it to when I have seen women try to play Shakespeare’s men, as men. Each Hamlet gives an incredible performance in their own right, but Urbanowicz's unwavering, fierce and wild Hamlet that took us to the finale, stole my vote.

The Bussey building is a great space, performances are slightly hindered by three big poles running through the centre of the room, just in front of the audience. Instead of of ignoring these, the company built them in to parts of the performance - often breaking directly through the literal ‘fourth wall’ and speaking to us, which worked well and made good use of the space.

It’s a challenge for any director to take on some of Shakespeare’s most classical speeches. At the point of ‘To be, or not to be…’ Max Calandrew, who plays Hamlet #2 (‘The Plan’), toys with the audience: ‘To be?’ He asks one member. ‘To be?’ He asks another, at first it seems a painfully drawn out, we all know what’s coming, why eke it out? But as he continued, I realised the genius behind the delivery - in a total act of acknowledgment that this is one of the most spoken speeches in history - he is inviting the audience to complete his sentence, and though our audience didn’t quite cotton on in time, I appreciated the thought behind it, and was ecstatic when I worked out the game for myself.

It runs at a slick two and a half hours and is delivered with great clarity, making it seem to speed by. Green has skilfully cultivated moments of comedy and light in amongst the darker scenes, including audience participation and a wonderful interlude from ‘Second Gravedigger’ (Eva Savage - who shines in various roles throughout).

It’s a lucid telling of this tale, which though far from being my favourite of Shakespeare’s works, was engaging to sit through; a lively and unconventional production of Hamlet, made it well worth a trip over to Peckham.

© Amie Taylor 2016 (@AmieAmieTay)

Hamlet Peckham
CLF Art Cafe

Directed by Anthony Green
Assistant Director: Rachel Creeger

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