Intense Prince who tells the truth

8th November 1996 at 00:00
A sense of forboding broods over the auditorium at the Greenwich Theatre. Soft lighting highlights a regal statue high on a ramp above the stage and wisps of dry ice float over grave stones.

Philip Franks' absorbing and deftly-cut production of Hamlet keeps death in the foreground - literally, as a grave-space yawns between us and the Elsinore court. Michael Maloney as the Prince is emotionally intense, spiritually perturbed (religion clearly plays a significant part in this society,despite the modern dress) and less keen to indulge his antic disposition out of philosophical devilry. After his bitter joke about the funeral baked meats furnishing his mother's wedding feast he breaks down in tears in his friend Horatio's arms.

This Hamlet is telling the truth when he asserts his love for Ophelia over her grave. In the Nunnery scene he begins by dealing gently with her, whispering the advice to abjure men and marriage, the implication being that such things can lead only to betrayal and suffering. Something - it is not clear what - suggests to him that she has already betrayed him and that her father is privy to their conversation. Violence ensues.

Maloney finds himself casting both Ophelia (movingly played by Zoe Waites) and the morally blank Gertrude (Dinah Stabb) brutally to the ground. He is allowed a moment's genuine remorse for the murdered Polonius (Clifford Rose as the kind of businessman who is far from stupid but will bore the socks off everyone else on the board of directors)in contrast to George Irving's Claudius who seems incapable of imagining the enormity of what he has done.

Tickets: 0181 858 7755 Until November 30.

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