Dukes Theatre, Lancaster
After their ground-breaking success in The Unsociables nearly a year ago, the Young Actors at The Dukes made a widely different choice for their second big production.
It is a huge step from the contemporary chaos of young peoples’ lives today to a historic Elizabethan bloodbath of ghosts, murder and revenge.
Arguably Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet is also the longest and is nearly always cut.
Louie Ingham’s two-hour adaptation skilfully retained the plot essentials and necessary insights into the Prince’s madness.
This ample material was passionately developed, worked up and transformed by The Dukes Young Actors and Young Company into a real spectacle, complete with a rock band in the gallery and small on-stage ensemble, as was common in Shakespeare’s time.
This was a contemporary staging, with intercom phones, modern furnishings and far from classical dance sequences. The total cast, with Lancaster schoolboy Lucas Button (pictured right) in the title role, was more than three dozen, all under 21.
None of this was a gimmick, or a device to show off, but each was wound seamlessly into the total atmosphere of distrust, treachery, sham and pretence that form the plots of so many soaps and docudramas.
We felt suspense, fear, laughter and horror alternately – a real roller-coaster ride of emotions.
Whilst some might prefer the full four-hour complete text with an older classical cast, this taut, abridged and vivacious production brought the story, characters and the action vividly in front of us - without taking up the whole evening.
And the intimacy of The Round at The Dukes admirably highlighted the immediacy of this intense performance – rightly run without an interval – intensifying the whole dramatic pulse of the play. In the week of the anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth in 1564, I feel the Bard would have been highly impressed by The Dukes’ young peoples’ energetic, intelligent and passionate spectacle.