SFC1 Open Air production of ‘Hamlet’

The fourth open air production produced and directed entirely by the SFC1 girls was perhaps the most ambitious so far.

Hamlet is not only a long play, but the central role is also one of Shakespeare’s most challenging. In addition, many of the lines are so well known that finding a fresh way of performing them is almost impossible. However, the directors Zara Norman and Izzy Dockery had a clear concept and many able performers to choose from, and their confident handling of the entire process led to a most enjoyable interpretation.

The modern dress performance was staged with a minimum of set and the audience were informed, through a lively programme note, that the background to the play was a struggle between two Nordic oil companies. The 1980s style extended to the acting, which was informal in style and  placed acute observation of character above histrionics.

The ghost of Hamlet’s father was simply and effectively played by Sharon Tong, who stalked across the lawn with great stillness and focus. The role of Hamlet was taken by Izzy Markham who presented the prince as confused and troubled rather than mad. She gave a beautifully clear account of the role, speaking the verse with great clarity and purpose. Giving a performance to remember, Izzy showed such understanding of the character and of Hamlet’s building need for revenge leading up to the final fateful scene, carrying the audience with her right to the moment of death.

Tash Minashi and Jackie Ransley made a marvellous pair as Claudius and Gertrude. Tash was all smiles and cheerfulness at the opening of the play, a much sunnier King than is usually depicted. This only emphasised the alteration as Claudius becomes aware that Hamlet has uncovered his crime, and by the final act Tash's character was a fierce and threatening presence. Jackie played Gertrude as a smiling but cold queen only interested in her own positon and the interplay between her and Hamlet was striking for its emotional intensity.

Ophelia is always a challenging role and Abi Owen was particularly successful in showing her slow transition from disappointment and confusion to sheer mad despair. Her singing and facial expression in her final scene were intensely moving.

For once, both performances were blessed with exceptionally good weather and the audiences were equally warm in their appreciation of this very impressive and enjoyable achievement by the entire cast.

Mr Smith, Director of Drama