Courtesy of Fiona Moorhead
Though the Olympics recently stole all of its thunder, London has a lot more to offer.
The Folger Theater is currently hosting the Shakespeare’s Globe Theater of London production of “Hamlet.” The company from the Globe is touring the United States, and its first stop is D.C.
“Hamlet” is the story of a young man tortured by the deceit of his uncle Claudius after the prince’s father’s death. Hamlet attempts to seek revenge on his uncle. But as the plot thickens he is driven to a breaking point and the world begins to shatter around him.
The production began with a lively introduction to the company as the cast sang a folksy traveling song and welcomed the audience to a recreated Globe Theater experience. They explained they would leave the house lights on to mimic the natural light used at the Globe. It was quite a different sensation to be sitting in a bright room. The norm is a well-lit stage in the audience left in the dark, free to doze off and roll eyes at less desirable parts of the production. However, there was none of that with “Hamlet.”
The cast was energetic and thoroughly entertaining. It was obvious the ensemble had been working together for a while. After all, they just finished their UK tour.
Michael Benz led the cast as Hamlet. He was a fireball of energy and emotion, carrying the cast through all of the deceit of William Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” Benz is no stranger to D.C. He received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University in psychology and theology and then studied abroad at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.
The rest of the cast members were double-, if not triple-cast in roles, constantly running on and off stage to change characters. Benz portrayed only Hamlet, leaving about 26 characters to seven actors. This was done so flawlessly through simple changes of costume and accent.
The audience was well aware that the actors were constantly switching characters, which added a bit of lightness to the production. For example, the actors who played Claudius and Gertrude, (Dickon Tyrrell and Miranda Foster) also played traveling players who Hamlet hires to present a play to call out the king and queen for their unjust and incestuous union. It was rather funny to see those characters being played by the same actors.
The constant switching of characters and some noticeable, but not plot-altering, scene cuts allowed this production to feel like it was moving rather quickly. However, the story was still clearly communicated. The pace brought an added lightness to the production, which can be easily bogged down in a more traditional production, or simply in the dense context of Shakespeare’s text.
Another interesting element of the production was all of the sounds. Company members played transitional music when not in character. Some were off to the side on the stage, and some performed from back stage. Tt was not as expected as a recorded sound, making the performance seem more natural.
The production was extremely entertaining and far from a traditional Shakespeare show. This Globe production is playing at the Folger Theater until Sept. 22.