Competition and Review: Hamlet at The Pearse Centre, Dublin 2

Hamlet – with an all female cast – is playing in Dublin now. To go or not to go? Well there’s a question.

Before I get into the review, I have a pair of tickets to give away to this. If you would like to win them, just leave a comment below with the date you’d like to attend.

An all female cast for William Shakespeare’s The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, brought to you by the same people who performed Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s controversial  ’Garbage, the City and Deathlast year.

In a venue I hadn’t been to before – The Pearse Centre at 27 Pearse St, Dublin 2 – I nearly got knocked down taking the photo above – with a cast of 16, I was initially quite intrigued by the premise of a Dublin Theatre company bringing Hamlet to the stage.

I’d forgotten, truth be told, that I’d already seen Hamlet earlier this year in the Helix so I went on Wednesday evening alone to see the production.

I was one of nine people in the audience. Though there’s only a capacity of approximately 40 seats or so, it felt empty. The stage small, the set basic and the audience less than expected, I realised I’ve been spoiled by the big productions I get to see in theatre and settled myself in to experience Plastic Theatre’s play.

Plastic Theatre in association with The Invention of the Human proudly presents an “all female” (reverse drag), Viking/Jazz inspired production of The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark – probably the best play in the world!

was the blurb and while I appreciate that Hamlet is one of the best plays, it’s also hugely ambitious, very long and difficult for even the most professional theatre company to pull off.

I’ll admit to knowing only one or two of the cast as acquaintances, so it was with great delight I got to see some excellent acting and riveting performances in this production, leaving me impressed, delighted and happy to recommend the play to any Shakespeare fan.

In other words – it’s very good.

Directors Jane Mulcahy and Anarosa de Eizaguerre Butler have put together a fantastic collection of some of the better female actors working in Ireland today. They injected as much enthusiasm, passion and a commitment to performing this play for the nine of us as they would have done, no doubt, on the Abbey Stage. It exceeded my expectations and then some.

The casting decisions are very strong. Anna McGrath as Claudius, Helen O’Reilly as Laertes, Candy Fitzgibbon as Ophelia, Elizabeth Anne Smiddy as Polonius and especially Jane Mulcahy as Hamlet all put in tremendous performances – it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into this production. I was particularly impressed with those five actors – the fact they are women never really came into it.

I’m not sure if the “all female cast” tagline is necessary or even helpful for the play. I’m not sure if I expected a bastardisation, an adaptation, a modernisation or indeed just a hormone-ridden version of the work but I got none of those. This is an extremely faithful production – I doubt London’s Globe could have produced better with the same budget.

Watching the play I was struck by how many great actors there are in Dublin who might never get the chance to walk the Abbey, Peacock, Gate or Project stages. I’m used to seeing familiar, well known actors on stage and this production gave me renewed respect for them as I realised that they must have gone through similar works in an effort to get to where they are.

Again I find myself saying that the acting and casting for this production of Hamlet was very good. Despite a couple of hiccups – more opening night nerves I’d imagine than poor preparation – the play was a great example of what a committed cast and crew can achieve.

I never felt for a moment that any of the cast were less than 100% committed to giving a great show, despite the small audience. Despite a complicated script with long monologues, they performed with dignity and professionalism that reminded me why I love theatre so much – that ability to put yourself into someone else’s shoes – male or female – and transport the watcher to a different time or place.

The energy given by Mulcahy as Hamlet coupled with the convincing austerity and bravado of McGrath as Claudius was palpable – their on-stage pairing was inspired. Smiddy as Polonius was suitably odious, obseqious and unlikable and O’Reilly as Laertes a suitably macho contrast to Fitzgibbon’s demure and feminine Ophelia.

In smaller roles people shone too – the cast is listed below. Just because some had “lesser” roles didn’t mean they made any less effort than their fellow actors. Plastic Theatre should be proud of what they’ve accomplished here.

There’s a lot of creativity on display here – from the use of the Viking Splash Tour props to the costumes that people have assembled, from the fight choreography to a delightful and funny interlude as the players portray the death of the king for the court (if you know the play, you’ll know the scene), it’s a true testament to the work that everyone has obviously put in.

It won’t be for everyone – I know this. Hamlet is a difficult play – it’s very long – 3 hours, the script is intricate and the fact that I’d seen it before and was familiar with the story helped immeasurably.

I think too that perhaps the production was too faithful – there are scenes (sorry Shakespeare disciples) that could be cut, the jazzy music just didn’t work for me and, truth be told, given the talent of the cast, I’d like to have seen them adapt, improvise and play with the play. Modernise it perhaps. It’s a difficult one to pinpoint and again, it’s just my opinion, but I felt that the play was let down not by this production, but by the writing itself. I think this group are capable of more.

Overall I’m happy I saw it. An impressive achievement showcasing some fine acting, it deserves bigger audiences and more applause. Definitely go if you’re a fan of the play and/or of good acting. I’m looking forward to seeing these actors in other productions – they have bright futures if they keep that standard up.

Sincere and genuine kudos to the actors mentioned above and to Kate Coppinger as Francisco, Aine Dillon as Barnardo, Shona Weymes as Horatio, Deirdre Jones as Marcellus, Sharon Sutton as the Ghost, Erika McCann as Gertrude, Klara McDonnell as Reynaldo, Fiona Colhoun as Rosencrantz, Karoline Rose O’Sullivan as Guildenstern, Irene Byrne as the Grave-Digger and Liliana Ashman as Osric.

The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark runs from: Tuesday June 28 (preview) to Saturday 10th July, at 7:30pm. There’s a matinee Saturday at 1:30pm, though no shows on Sunday 3 or Monday 4. It’s in the theatre at the Pearse Centre, 27 Pearse St, Dublin 2 – you’ll find directions here.

Directed by Jane Mulcahy and Anarosa De Eizaguirre Butler with choreography and movement sequences by Tom Butler and Produced by Michael Reilly and Keith Seybert.

Recent Plastic Theatre productions include the very well-received Twelfth Night (Teachers’ Club 2010), Garbage, the City and Death (Smock Alley Boys’ School 2010) and A Date with Mercy (Smock Alley Boys’ School 2010).

Just let me know the date you’d like to go below. My thanks to Jane for the review ticket, the opportunity to see this production and for the competition prize.

3 Responses to Competition and Review: Hamlet at The Pearse Centre, Dublin 2

  1. Denise Burns on said:

    Love to attend with my grand niece tomorrow (Saturday) night. She is 17 and has just returned from living in Germany for five years. She read a review of the production and is really keen to see it! I’d love to oblige her!

  2. Hi would love to go tonight Wednesday 6th with my daughter. She will be doing the play for her leaving cert would be nice to give her a head start especially appealing with an all female cast,,, go girls !!

  3. Pingback: Just 3 shows left of Hamlet! « Klara McDonnell's Blog

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