Comment: HAMLET

by Lynn on February 15, 2016

in The Passionate Playgoer

Note: I was only able to see the last performance of this production on Feb. 7, but it was so worthy and committed an effort, I want to comment.

At the Monarch Tavern on Clinton Street, Toronto, Ont.

By William Shakespeare.
Directed by Catherine Rainville
Wardrobe by Dorea Beaudoin
Music by Simon Rainville
Cast: Daniel Briere
Jade Douris
Jennifer Dzialoszynski
Megan Miles
Jesse Nerenberg
Julia Nish-Lapidus
Drew O’Hara
David Ross
Jane Spence
James Wallis

A bracing, energetic production by a committee cast.

Comment. The company that produced this is Shakespeare BASH’d, a group of young actors who make their own work by producing the bard in what they call ‘social settings.’ In this case that means the Monarch Tavern. The audience is invited to get a drink, relax and watch. I note many actors in the company who have done Shakespeare elsewhere. On the last performance the place is packed with what looks like long-time supporters of this company. Their runs are very short and usually have to go head to head with other theatre productions also running at the same time. Too often this worthy company loses out to other productions for ones attention. I’ll work very hard to prevent that in future.

This production of Hamlet was crisply spoken, clearly interpreted but still detailed in its presentation and thougtfully directed by Catherine Rainville. To add to the spookiness of the first scene, when soldiers on watch believe they have seen the Ghost of Hamlet Sr., Rainville has the Ghost (David Ross who also plays Claudius) appear outside the tavern at times, looking through a window. This spooks the soldiers further when they see the Ghost. Nice touch.

Because the playing space is a narrow expanse between the audience on both sides, blocking becomes particularly challenging. How do you find the nuance of scenes if the action is spread over that space? Rainville found the way. When the ‘Mousetrap Scene’ is played in the middle of the space and the Claudius and Gertrude are up at one end, Rainville just focuses the action when needed to show Claudius sweating at how close the play-acted scene is to how he killed his brother.

The fight scene between Hamlet and Laertes at the end of the play is also tricky. Here we have to be attentive to the sword-play, to Claudius making a show of putting a pearl in a cup of (poisoned) wine meant for Hamlet and also be aware of Gertrude innocently drinking the wine when we know it’s bad news for her if she does. Again, Rainsville handles this nicely.

James Wallis is a brooding, commanding Hamlet. Julia Nish-Lapidus is a sweet Ophelia and funny Second Gravedigger. David Ross is a properly oily, confident Claudius, and Jane Spence a sensuous Gertrude who must split her allegiances between her new, demanding husband and her unhappy son. The rest of the cast acquit themselves well.

Shakespeare BASH’d is a company worthy of our attention.

Look out for them at

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