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A One Man Hamlet
Published on Friday, 03 August 2012
3

3 stars

C venues - C aquila (venue website)
Theatre
2-11 Aug, 3:30pm-4:30pm
Reviewed by Ellen Macpherson

 Recommended for age 12+ only.
 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.

Of all the plays conceived by the Bard, Hamlet might present the most Herculean of tasks in turning Shakespeare into a one-man show. I did genuinely want this play to succeed – primarily because I can appreciate the sort of daring it takes to even consider morphing Hamlet into a production featuring a single actor. Unfortunately, Living Art’s daring fails when they get to the execution, and I was left frustrated by the unfilled potential.

On paper, One Man Hamlet provides an intriguing concept. The play is viewed entirely from the Hamlet’s point of view, meaning that events such as Ophelia’s death are exposed to the audience only after Hamlet learns of them. I admit, I was innately sceptical, but the programme managed to endear the idea to me and I hoped for it to live up to the intrigue.

Living Art are a staple at Fringe events around the globe, and Will Bligh is undoubtedly a polished actor, particularly in the physical sense. His movement and use of the small stage were perhaps my favourite aspect of his performance. His interpretation and delivery of Hamlet was not always level with my own perception of the character – but that is a matter of personal opinion, and these questions will always persist when it comes to Shakespeare.

And his delivery in certain parts, such as the end of the ‘nunnery’ scene with Ophelia, was unquestionably captivating. While I wasn’t completely sold on the famous soliloquies, Bligh shined in scenes where his character interacted with others. Another surprise highlight was his portrayal of the Ghost: dramatic, but theatrically excellent.

Hamlet’s plot needs no introduction. If you aren’t familiar, I suggest Wikipedia, because I could spend pages explaining all the nuances of the storyline and characters. And perhaps this is really the problem here; I have never believed that Hamlet was a play solely about Hamlet himself. Many of its themes are portrayed by other characters, so by confining the production to only Hamlet’s lines, the play loses a lot of its clarity and substance.

I realise that Living Art wanted to remain as faithful to the original as possible, but an occasional inclusion of the lines of other characters would not have hurt.  I’m as wary as anyone of bastardised Shakespeare, but I feel that in this case they truly needed to reach outside the box and have more of a play around with the original text than they did.

All in all, this was a clever premise, somewhat let down by a lack of confidence in writing and execution. What could have been a clever, fresh one-man insight into a classic text ended up being choppy and occasionally one-dimensional – seemingly constrained, like many other productions, by the mammoth task of taking on perhaps the most recognisable play in history.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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