Hamlet

William Shakespeare, adapted by Jesper B. Karlsen
Det Lille Turnéteater
the egg, Bath
(2008)

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The Shakespeare Unplugged Festival at Bath's egg theatre continues with this astounding Danish adaptation of Hamlet. Though advertised for aged 10 years plus, the predominantly adult evening audience were rapt: there's a genius in this Scandinavian minimalist production.

This wouldn't be the arresting production it is without the precision of the text, striking a perfect balance between the modern and the original, in a lilting, accessible dialogue. In fact, the master stroke of this production is that the two man, two double bass player cast have stripped the play back without sacrificing any of the character development or the potency of the story. Each character is pared down to its essence; each scene delivered with precision. It is an uncluttered, highly energised production with a playful, anarchic feel.

Morten Bo Koch and Sune Kofoed bed each character in a deceptively simple physicality, the apparent effortlessness a testament to skilled performances. There were moments of fascinating, almost Moulin Rouge-like surrealism, particularly in the play-within-a-play. Stripped of the clutter, the final scenes are deeply affecting, the tragedy laid bare by the simplicity of the production.

On stage throughout are the Bass players, Andreas Barsøe Bennetzen and Klaus Kaarsgaard. They do far more than provide musical accompaniment: they are at once a stormy night on the battlements, a ship at sea, a ghost and even a substitute arras. Along the way they provide a leitmotif for key characters: a jazz riff, for example whenever Claudius enters, with his heavy shades and his confident swagger. Without them this production would not be the triumph that it is.

This is a masterful adaptation, rightly deserving of its critical acclaim; not only is it an extraordinary introduction to the play for a first time audience, but also a profoundly affecting piece of theatre.

"Hamlet" runs at the egg until Thursday 6th March

Reviewer: Allison Vale