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Theatre Review: Hamlet @ The Crescent Theatre

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This Article 19 production of Hamlet is produced and performed entirely by students from the University of Birmingham, but can easily be mistaken for a professional staging.

It locates the Shakespearean play in the modern day. Despite being nearly three hours long, Article 19 managed to effectively combine both drama and humour to ensure that the perfomance wasn't tiring or too intense throughout. 

Performed in The Crescent Theatre’s studio theatre space in the centre of Birmingham, the room was small but this didn't hinder the performance - in fact it enhanced it. Promising an ‘exciting stripped back’ performance, the group did exactly that. The stage was almost bare, with only two black tables and a few chairs placed on the stage, in such a small space the lack of any visable set was incredibly effective in forcing the focus throughout onto the actors. 

Every part of the room was utilised, which is key to why this performance is so successful. By placing the actors around the corners of the room in the first scene, it meant that when they applauded the King it felt as if they were sat right with us, as if we were supposed to be applauding along with them.

From standing around the audience, to actually shining torches around the seating, it was hard not to feel exposed throughout the show. If performed in a bigger venue, this effect would have truly been lost, and the atmosphere of the produciton would have been completely different. 

The sound was incredible and deserves recognition. It was key in creating the eerie, suspcious, and ghostly world of Hamlet. Appearences of the ghost and when Gertrude recieves the news of Ophelia's death are key moments where the sound is the most effective. It's almost cinematic in how the sound effected the overall perfomrance. 

Whilst every cast member was exceptional, with some performing multile roles, Elliot McDowell’s as Hamlet was extraordinary. There’s a reason he received the biggest applause during the curtain call. Balancing both the serious and the playful, the delivering of Hamlet’s monologues were impactful and a true highlight of his performance. Intense and emotional, he engaged with the audience fully – something that the other actors sometimes lacked. If members of the audience didn’t feel included in the performance before, direct eye contact with Hamlet definitely creates that effect.

Equally Katy Owens and Charlie Harris are also a credit to the performance. The relationship between Gertrude and Claudius slowly deteriorates through the performance, and Owens depiction of a woman trapped in a marriage was incredible, it was hard not to feel sympathy towards Hamlet’s mother. Meanwhile, Harris succeeded in portraying a cold and harsh King who could resort to murder to get what he wants. 

With a strong cast and talented crew, this production of Hamlet gave a lot more than what was expected. Lighting, sound, and movement worked in harmony constantly throughout, making this adaption of the Shakespearean play unique and, honestly, increidble.

Hamlet ran at The Crescent Theatre last week. Visit their website here

Visit the Article 19 website here

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