Hamlet as Everyman

Timothy Ramsden

Hamlet, Adapted by George Dillon, Vital Theatre Opening with "To be or not . . ." as a thematic prologue, it looks as if we're in for a deconstructed evening, but what follows is a straight cut (no battlements, Polonian advice or Fortinbras) through the action with a much-doubling cast of six plus Dillon's Prince.

When the publicity says "George Dillon's Hamlet" it refers to more than his presentation of a noble mind that from the start can break into childish fits of petulance; whose cheeky peck at Claudius's cheek when calling him mother is the behaviour of someone consumed by such a longing for his father he almost treats Old Hamlet as a mother, trying to crawl back into a womb.

As director Dillon has drawn on the notion of Hamlet as a potential Everyman by treating the play as a meeting point of theatre tradition, Hamlet mad draws on oriental traditions, (Hamlet as samurai) while comic buffoonery surrounds Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, the one a camp figure, the other a gruff glove puppet dog - palace poodles the pair.

Unsurprisingly for someone who has worked closely with Steven Berkoff, Dillon provides a strongly physical theatre, often to thrilling effect. In the bedchamber of Denise Evans' forceful Gertrude he mimes two picture frames, filling them with Hamlet's favoured portraits of his father and uncle.

Then there's the poetry of Ophelia's funeral - some unexciting gravediggers but grotesquery with Yorick's skull and a slow procession headed by Ophelia herself who walks silent to the grave, lies down at the instruction she be buried and is covered in the red train which had represented Polonius' blood. No, not the complete Hamlet but as vital and alive as you'll find.

Touring: Barnet Old Bull August 1-5, (0181 449 0048), Edinburgh Assembly Rooms August 12-September 3 (0131 226 2428).

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