Shakespeare's Globe's offers an irresistible new production of William Shakespeare's famous tragedy.
Although he's standing still when first spotted listening to his stepfather Claudius (Dickon Tyrrell) bloviate before new wife Gertrude (Miranda Foster) and other courtiers, Hamlet springs into hyperkinetic action once he joins the night watch to address his father's ghost if it appears.
From then on, the trim blond Benz darts ceaselessly about the stage with all limbs going. Just about the only times he stops are when he faces the audience to deliver the play's famed monologues, which he does lucidly and persuasively. And even then, he utters the words "To be or not to be?" as if the question is so obvious, there's no reason to drag it out.
This Hamlet is a young man who was undoubtedly a lot of fun around the place -- until he learns how his father died and instantly understands what he must do to rectify things -- and can still get his kicks kidding old pals Rosencrantz (Peter Bray) and Guildenstern (Matthew Romain).And Benz isn't the only one constantly on the move. Directors Dominic Dromgoole and Bill Buckhurst have gone the way of many of today's Shakespeare interpreters and pared the cast down to eight members, all of whom (save Benz) play the tragedy's many other characters on Jonathan Fensom's practical Globe-like set.
Outfitted by Fensom to suggest a troupe of 1940s traveling players, the game cast busily disappears into the wings to throw on a piece of apparel that will differentiate themselves from who they just were. So Christopher Saul gets laughs as the fulminating Polonius, then elicits more yuks as a solemn gravedigger.
Tyrell becomes a commanding elder Hamlet. Romain's Laertes is as sincere as his Guildenstern is silly. Bray's Fortinbras is as authoritative as his Osric is mockingly deferential. Carlyss Peer is the stricken Ophelia as well as a sturdy Voltemand, and Tom Lawrence's Horatio — he's also Reynaldo — is admirably loyal.
Dromgoole and Buckhurst know full well they're guiding a downbeat work, but they hardly avoid having their amusement with the famous proceedings, when appropriate. The production may be small-scale, but it's mighty entertaining.