To see or not to see? The Rep brings Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ to life
For those who have never seen Shakespeare on stage, it is truly something to experience. The universal themes contained within “Hamlet,” such as greed, betrayal and jealousy, help draw the audience into the story. Over 400 years after it was written, these themes are still relevant. There is also political turmoil, and a possible war is on the horizon.
Avery Clark, a 2002 University of Arkansas graduate who grew up in Fort Smith, plays Hamlet. His take on the character is exhilarating. His performance is far from uptight or stuffy.
Clark colors Hamlet with shades of madness, jealousy and humor. While it’s considered a tragedy, there were moments of levity, where his connection to the audience was evident.
At times his performance would move from manic to very still, and he delivered Hamlet’s famous soliloquies with a depth of emotion that was captivating.
Colin McPhillamy as Claudius, current King of Denmark and Hamlet’s uncle, was fantastic. He brings to the character the requisite air of nobility and deviousness. After all, Hamlet believes Claudius killed his father and married his mother, all within the space of a few months.
Barbara McCulloh (Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother) and Nikki Coble (Ophelia, Hamlet’s love) bring a quiet strength to their characters. McCulloh’s scenes with Clark are riveting.
The exchanges between Hamlet and his mother are some of the most interesting. Ophelia’s descent into madness is brilliantly portrayed by Coble as she flits and skips across the stage, singing songs and handing out flowers.
“Hamlet” is Shakespeare’s longest play. The 1996 Kenneth Brannagh film version contains every word and has a running time of over four hours. Most theater companies do not produce the entire play as written. They cut it until they have a version they believe conveys the story well enough.
The Arkansas Repertory Theatre’s version ran approximately three hours, with a 15-minute intermission. While that might seem long, I was never bored and only checked my watch once.
The final scene, wherein Hamlet concocts a plan to draw out Claudius and convince himself of Claudius’ complicity in his father’s death, is an extremely exciting and fitting climax to a wonderful performance.
Live theater is something most people never experience. “Hamlet” is a perfect opportunity to experience Shakespeare’s greatest play performed by a talented cast of actors.
“Hamlet” continues through Nov. 14 at The Rep, with shows running Wednesday through Sunday.