Review: WAITING FOR HAMLET at Online

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Two deceased characters, King Hamlet, and his fool, Yorick, engage in a conversation in which the King wants to go back to talk to his son, the Prince, well-known to us all, and also named Hamlet, and Yorick tries to dissuade him. David Visick's Waiting for Hamlet won the Kenneth Branagh New Drama Writing Award in 2018 at the Windsor Fringe.

Directed by Trevor Datson, the production was supposed to have toured extensively throughout the UK during their summer but, of course, the worldwide pandemic put paid to that. Nicholas Collett, playing Yorick, and Tim Marriott, playing the King, took a different path. The production will, eventually, tour live, as intended, but, in the meanwhile, the three have created a 'radio play' version.

This was no easy task, with everybody isolated to prevent the spread of the virus, and the actors living 30 miles apart. Collett and Marriott each built their own sound booths, from a collection of household items, in which to record their parts and then Datson put in the hours editing out the lags caused by transmission over the internet.

The resulting work is now available online for the whole of May. It is free, but donations are requested and most welcome. These are all full-time Arts industry workers and rely on your generosity to provide them with some income from all of this hard work.

You might ask why I, in South Australia, am reviewing this recording. The answer, of course, is that Collett and Marriott are regular and highly popular visitors to the Adelaide Fringe and they hope that, if restrictions are lifted in time, they can bring the stage version of this play here in February and March 2021. That is something for us all to look forward to.

To add to the fun, people were asked to dress up for a big night at the theatre, and walk the red carpet to their own front door, before listening, then post photos and video clips of their arrival, on the Facebook page.

The script, as one would expect from a play that has won awards, is very clever, very funny, thought-provoking, and demonstrates a clear and deep understanding of Shakespeare's play, Hamlet. Datson's direction captures all of this.

Anybody who has had the good fortune to have seen the two performers, Collett and Marriott, will know that this is sure to impress, and it does. The complexities involved in creating this remarkable piece were well worth the effort.

Normally a radio play is recorded in a studio, with all performers there together. This allows them to see each other and gain visual clues from facial expressions and demeanors. The two actors in this performance were denied that, having to rely on aural clues alone, making this piece all the more outstanding.

We are given two absolutely superb performances by Nicholas Collett and Tim Marriott that belie all of the difficulties and complexities involved in the creation of this work. They present us with two thoroughly well-developed and convincing characterisations, and their interactions are so strong that you can actually picture Yorick and the King verbally sparring. Thankfully, the pandemic has not brought a complete end to the Arts and there are still some highly innovative people finding ways to keep working and bring new performances to audiences.

The King and the Fool are destined to join Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Vladimir and Estragon, as a memorable pairing of theatrical characters and I am sure that we will hear from them for a long time to come. That live stage performance in Adelaide cannot come too soon.

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