T4YP’s production of Hamlet in one word: eclectic.
At its best, it’s quirky fun and has moments of delicious humour. At its worst, it can feel a bit like a high school play. I attribute the latter to the youth of its cast – Hamlet is, after all, a tragedy. There’s a certain level of gravitas and pathos in the play, which, unfortunately never really comes across. Not that it means Hamlet isn’t a good watch. Oh, it can be a fine romp at times so long as you leave your Shakespeare scholar at home.
What is the play all about? Hamlet is the tale of an angry prince who has to deal with his father’s death and what he considers his mother’s hasty remarriage to, of all people, his uncle. It would be too easy to frame it into a One Tree Hill sort of setting – angsty young man going through his rebellious phase. But things are far more complicated than that.
Staging-wise, I’ve always loved how T4YP does so much with so little. Minimalism is practical but risky. With so little emphasis put on props, costuming and sets, the onus is all on the actors and their performances. T4YP’s Christopher Ling opted to dress his actors in current wear in black, white and the odd dash of gray and red. Think cocktail dresses, suits and the odd romper. In the T4YP context of Hamlet, it works.
Nick Dorian starts off the play with some trippy dialogue, playing the role of Hamlet’s uncle and new stepfather. He’s comfortable with his lines though he tends to go a wee bit too fast at times. Acting as the bad guy, Nick chooses to play Claudius with a lot of humour instead of going the one-toned evil villain route. For this version of Hamlet, it works.
Izmir Husein who plays the title role doesn’t have it easy. Hamlet is a play full of monologues, most of them by him. Izmir’s charm and good looks help, not to mention his good enunciation and grasp of difficult Shakespearean lines. His opening night nerves showed, though, and it took a bit of time for him to really slip into Hamlet’s tortured psyche. Despite his personal magnetism and his obvious talent, his Hamlet is far too restrained for my taste. The closest I came to ‘feeling’ his Hamlet were his scenes with Ophelia (Rachel Henry) which were intense and almost terrifying – you didn’t know how far he would go.
The rest of the ensemble – Jit Yang and Gregory Sze are probably my favourite comic actors in T4YP. While Gregory has impeccable comic timing and masters the art of buffoonery, Jit is quieter, more nuanced but still damnably funny without looking like he’s trying too hard. Dinesh as Polonius was the most convincing as an ‘older’ character and rather lovable as the overprotective father and overzealous courtier. Otherwise, the remaining ensemble gave able but not very memorable performances. That couldn’t be helped, though, because Hamlet is about, well, Hamlet.
What could have made Hamlet better would perhaps be waiting for the actors to get a bit older. To live a little. When one of the characters died, the grief just wasn’t there. Neither was anguish. Heartbreak. Guilt. Regret. But I suppose it’s because the players are a bit too young for life to have knocked them around much. The play scratches only the surface of the complexity and pathos of Hamlet but think of this as a training ground for novice actors. I’d advise you to enjoy T4YP’s Hamlet as an accessible, fun show and a glimpse of the potential of T4YP’s new batch of aspiring thespians.
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