CLF THEATRE, BUSSEY BUILDING, PECKHAM.
This pacy production from Shakespeare Peckham is full of youthful energy and truth.
Seeing an advert for an actor to play Hamlet is enough to make any performer sit up and take notice. But this one specified nothing beyond a minimum age of 18. The result is a production where not one but three actors seize the opportunity to take their turn as the sweet prince.
This crisp and intriguing show from Shakespeare Peckham follows the same company’s Othello, and is staged within the chill concrete walls of the Bussey Building, which – be warned – is almost impossible to find despite its size, unless you already know where you’re going.
Sharon Singh takes the first shift, opening the play’s scene setting as a baffled, resentful young man, simmering with energy and fire.
Max Calandrew plays the central portion, with a keen intelligence and a refreshing mix of humour and clarity in his delivery. Director Anthony Green perhaps has him bashing the women around a bit more than strictly necessary – his attacks on Ophelia and his mother both appear rather too overtly choreographed – but this is a gripping performance.
The final prince is Izabella Urbanowicz, whose swashbuckling vigour is tempered by a beautifully judged and emotional closing scene, and an excellent swordfight by fight and movement director Marcello Marascalchi.
There is an occasional awkwardness about flipping sexes – ‘dog will have her day’ and ‘Good night sweet princess’ seem unnecessarily fidgety, but by and large the mixed casting adds new layers to the production with each actor revealing different strengths.
Gil Sutherland is terrific as bossy dad Polonius, with a suave mixture of courtly deference and parental authority, and he brings a gravitas to the production that helps to ground the younger performers.
Daniel Rusteau’s calm, concerned Horatio is also impressive and finely tuned.
In heavily accented English, Diana Gomez excels as Ophelia, marking the tragic decline of the hopeful young girl into madness and despair with a tender sensitivity.
There’a also a very perky and entertaining turn from Eva Savage as the gravedigger, whose spry humour and sage observations are one of the evening’s highlights.
Peckham Shakespeare’s aim is, according to Antony Green, to inspire us to do our own ‘thing to do’, in the way that poor Hamlet fails to do his, and this approach has much to recommend it – not least that this production demonstrates a clarity and truth that reaches the heart of the play.
Until Feb 27 2016 at The Bussey Building