Hart House takes on Shakespeare’s most famous drama with Hamlet in Toronto
Shakespeare’s classic play Hamlet is essentially a story of tragic irony, betrayal, murder, madness, and obsession–told by a man who thinks and speaks too much. I was amused to discover tonight at Hart House that it’s also the source of numerous modern-day expressions: “The lady doth protest too much”, “To thine own self be true”, and “Murder most foul” to name but a few.
You may be thinking “this is news to someone who reviews theatre?” Yes. It was. While I studied Shakespeare in high school, I was more into Romeo and Juliet. And nothing else. I’m now acutely aware that Shakespeare maybe isn’t my thing. However, that only detracted slightly from my enjoyment of this show.
First off, there’s the venue. I see a lot of independent shows in tiny theatres, and I adore those shows and spaces. Seeing a classic like Hamlet in an old, Gothic, classic-looking theatre –huge for what I’m accustomed to –was grand and dramatic. In fact, my favourite aspect of tonight’s show was how the cast fully utilized the space in creative ways.
The industrial, under-construction style staging complimented the modern take on the classic play (and I am directly quoting my companion Nadine’s take on it): “an upper-crust college kid in a dysfunctional power family.” The way they played with lighting, shadows, and the space itself delighted me. I found the modernity– interwoven with the original dialogue–seamless and at times hilarious.
While my companion’s least favourite aspect of the show was having the cast roam through the aisles at times, I found it exciting and unpredictable. I never knew when someone was going to come roaring up behind or beside me (and we were warned about this before the show began).
I found the cast insanely energetic and talented, especially Hamlet (played by Dan Mousseau). Nadine and I both loved the performances. It’s important to note at this point that I didn’t really understand much of what was happening vis-a-vis the dialogue. Thankfully, we looked at a Hamlet primer before going in.
If I had studied Hamlet–as I was supposed to–I feel that I would have enjoyed this production much more. I think it says a lot that I enjoyed it as much as I did despite being lost most of the time. My least favourite aspect was the dialogue: namely the long, incessant monologues. However, I thought it was brilliantly delivered, and not something I can blame on this production.
To see or not to see? If Hamlet and/or Shakespeare are your thing, I’d say go for it! I’d strongly urge anyone who hasn’t the studied the play to read up on it beforehand. I was mostly clueless, but still enjoyed myself. If you’re not into monologues, or Ye Olde English, or Shakespeare, you might want to spend your three hours elsewhere.
- Hamlet is playing until November 21, 2015 at Hart House Theatre (7 Hart House Circle)
- See website for showtimes
- Ticket prices range from $15 – $28, with $12 student tickets every Wednesday, and are available online, or through the box office at 416-978-8849
- Note: use of fog machine and loud noises
- Runtime is 3 hours, and includes a 20 minute intermission
Photo of Alan Shonfield, Dan Mousseau, and Dylan Evans by Scott Gorman