Revenge of the relatives

10th February 1995 at 00:00
Hamlet, Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich

Antony Tuckey's programme note may suggest that Hamlet is always full of surprises: his production springs relatively few - and for this relief much thanks. As it gathers pace after a comparatively early interval, the plot shines through. The result is a gripping "double" revenge play as Laertes and Hamlet compete to avenge their murdered relatives.

This particular Elsinore is a late 19th century Baltic state, concerned about its neighbours' military manoeuvres and civil unrest at home. The guards on the battlements are there for very good reasons: Claudius is not popular with his people. Ambassadors stand stiffly in their tight-fitting court uniforms and the travelling players might as readily perform Chekhov as The Mousetrap. Only the ghost seems out of place - an escapee from another play rather than another world.

If the production lacks fireworks, there are still some fine performances. Constance Barrie as Ophelia is heartrending in her mad scenes; David Timson gives us a Polonius who is as convincing as he is bumbling and Leslie Tuckey doubles Laertes and Rosencrantz, playing the former with fire and the latter with a chilling mixture of charm, guile and bewilderment.

Martin Marquez (fresh from television's The Bill) seems intent on making sure we like Hamlet. His "Get thee to a nunnery" seems as if it really is the kindest course of action he can suggest; and, while some may feel his soliloquies sound too mundane, it is an intelligent reading of the role. Above all, this is a Hamlet that honours the text (despite cutting 900 lines) and will not give examination candidates wayward ideas about what Shakespeare "really" meant.

Until February 25. Box office: 01473 253725. Running time 3 hrs 5 mins.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today