Theatre review: Hamlet at St Andrew’s Crypt

Shakespeare is stripped back to basics with a haunting retelling of Hamlet

What a piece of work is Hamlet. There is always a production on in London, and with good reason - it’s a behemoth of a play and the soliloquies are Shakespeare’s best.

But all too often directors seek to find something new and original in it by placing the action somewhere wacky, like an asylum or a dystopian future.

The Actors’ Temple Company has bucked the trend admirably, going back to the simple power of the words as Shakespeare wrote them. This production is unabridged and faithful to the play, unencumbered by desperate attempts at modern retelling.

Tom Radcliffe’s production uses the space to chilling effect - set in a crypt beneath St Andrews Church in Holborn, the gloomy oppressive walls of Elsinore Castle flicker with nervous candle flames and a cold dampness seems to permeate the very atmosphere of the world in which Mark Wakeling’s Hamlet hovers in torturous indecision.


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Ellie Zeegen is heartbreaking as the innocent victim Ophelia and Wakeling’s Hamlet is a compelling enigma - by turns violent and hideously vulnerable.

But it is the band of travelling players who steal the show, lifting our despondent spirits with their bells, kohl-lined eyes and exotic singing.

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* The Actors’ Temple Company’s Hamlet was showing at St Andrew’s Crypt, Holborn Circus, EC4, in December.

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