BWW Review: Necessary Angel's Hamlet
Necessary Angel's Production of Hamlet had its opening night November 19th at Harbourfront's Enwave Theatre, and what a night it was. This production promises to be "a radical re-visioning of one of the world's greatest plays." It certainly isn't the Hamlet most people would expect when going to the theatre, and that is precisely why it works. It is dark and visceral and most importantly, different, and it allows the audience to experience this classic tale on a new level.
One of the first noticeable things about this production is the intimacy of it. It is housed in the small Enwave Theatre, with the stage in the middle of the audience so that people are seated on either side of the action. The set is minimalistic; with Hamlet (played remarkably well by Gord Rand) sitting in a chair looking rather "Emo". As soon as Mr. Rand opens the show, you know you are in for a different type of theatre experience.
Pared down to just 120 minutes with no intermission, a lot of the classic text and scenes have been removed from this production. And while the absence of certain scenes is noticeable at points (The Grave-Digger scene for example), the shortened version works well for many reasons. Most importantly, in this day in age, it is almost necessary to have a production of Shakespeare's work that finishes in less than two hours. In today's society, people are too busy and disinterested to spend the time necessary to see the entire work, and this production can cater to those people while still keeping the spirit and message of the show intact.
The cast is incredible, specifically Gord Rand in the title role. Hamlet is certainly not an easy character to portray (in fact, it is considered by many to be an actor's dream and nightmare at the same time) but Rand attacks the role with fevered gusto that one doesn't often get to see on stage. He starts off somewhat timid and grows into the crazed, delusional character with impeccable ease, and he connects with the audience on a truly visceral level. You feel the emotion and the words before your brain processes them, which is a testament to his acting. Another outstanding performance was given by Eric Peterson in the role of Polynius. Peterson takes any and all humour out of the role and plays the character as a true villain, accentuating everything that is evil and vile about the role. Perhaps the most haunting performance is given by Robert Persichini, in dual roles as The Ghost and The Player King. Persichini is terrifying as The Ghost, appearing from The Shadows and haunting both Hamlet and in turn, the people in the audience. Credit must be given to him when he turns around and gives one of the most delightful performances of the evening as The Player King.
Scottish Director Graham McLaren makes astonishing use of light and sound for this production, and it adds to the overall haunting effect the performance has. There are chandeliers hanging from the ceiling that change colour and are (at times) turned off completely, and the effect of the lighting truly enhances the show. The choice of music is both daringly unique and also frightening, ranging from strange mixed tapes of popular songs (used between Hamlet and Ophelia), to dark and penetrating music that can scare and bewilder when The Ghost appears to speak to Hamlet.
Shakespeare (and Hamlet in particular) is the type of theatre experience that every person experiences in their own way. Like a truly great piece of music, it can be a very personal experience that is not to be taken lightly. Necessary Angel's Hamlet allows one to experience the story of Hamlet on that more personal level, in the truest sense possible. Without spoiling the show for anyone who goes to see it, the best example I can give would be when Hamlet delivers his famous soliloquy, especially "To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub" I have seen this line delivered in many ways over the years, but the rub in this particular play truly took my breath away.
To sum it up, this Hamlet is almost impossible to adequately put into words. It was an experience, and love it or hate it, you should be able to appreciate that you are witnessing something truly different.
When and Where?
Necessary Angel's Hamlet
Necessary Angel Theatre Company
Enwave Theatre, 231 Queen's Quay West, Toronto, ON
Nov 19-20 at 8:00PM
Nov 21 at 2PM and 8PM
Nov 22 at 4PM
Nov 24-27 at 8PM
Nov 28 at 2PM and 8PM
Nov 29 at 4PM
Tickets for the regularly scheduled performances are $40, with discounts for arts workers and students available Tuesday-Thursday. Tickets can be purchased through the Harbourfront Centre Box Office by phone at 416.973.4000 or online at www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage
For more information please visit: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/worldstage0910/necessaryangel/