Very Humorous Hamlet

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Easy Stages 04
15 Min Hamlet 12

Local residents flocked to the community school on the 16th and 17th November to see Haddenham Players perform two plays around the theme of Hamlet.

In a departure from the usual format the evening started with wine and excellent canapes, served by the cast. It was an excellent social occasion and a chance for the audience to mingle with the thespians, some of them already dressed in Elizabethan costume. One theatre goer entered into the spirit of the evening attending in top hat and tails, perhaps starting a precedent?

Easy Stages was a play about an inept group of amateur stage crew rehearsing their moves for the play Hamlet. There were some very funny and believable caricatures of people you might meet in amateur (& professional) dramatics. Gerry (Gary McCarron) will forever be the pompous stage manager — I don't think I could ever take him seriously (I have worked for people like that!). Alice (Gill Harvey) spiced things up by revealing who was having affairs with whom and, being 'the curious type', making a pass at Gerry. (Hmm... might get her phone number). Heady stuff for Haddenham. Sally Fleming's bird brained character Patsy was excruciatingly dim. I'm sure she is not like that in real life. The dialogue was quick fire and complex.

I'm not usually a Shakespeare fan but the second play, The Fifteen Minute Hamlet, was a hoot. Robert Cairns upstaged his dad with a very noble Hamlet and excellent timing. His dad Ed made Claudius quite comical with his facial expressions. Tim Armitt's Polonius owed something to Baldrick of Blackadder and, of all the fast paced scenes, the death scene was the most dramatic with the delightful Ophelia (Anna Hale) collapsing over the edge of the stage very convincingly. How they didn't crash into each other is miracle. After an exhausting 15 minutes (for the audience as well as the cast!) they did it all again as an encore — in 2 minutes!

This new style of event with wine and canapes together with two separate lively plays made an excellent social evening and was particularly suitable for those that had not been to a Players event before. It was welcoming and informal but special for those that were there. I look forward to their next event!

An additional review of Hamlet, from Andrew Gordon:

An Essential Hamlet

Hamlet is Shakespeare's longest play and (except for Kenneth Branagh's 4 hours) is always much cut for modern audiences. And it is a tragedy, with all the main characters ending up dead. So, cutting it to 13 minutes and playing it as a comic romp is bold, to say the least.

However, Alison Court's production, with Tom Stoppard's 'script', will surely be remembered as a brilliant moment in the history of the Haddenham Players. Rattled through the story as we were, with the Stoppard selection of well-loved lines which have infiltrated our language, the audience fell about laughing as the bodies fell about the stage.

But this was more than slapstick. The speaking was excellent. The pace and timing, as important for brevity as for laughs, were impeccable. The costumes (by Gillian Liddell) were a delight. And the production was packed with visual as well as verbal wit.

The name part was played by Robert Cairns (17) with becoming diffidence, doubly appropriate with his murderous usurping uncle being played by his father Ed. Deborah Fraser's hastily re-married Gertrude faced serious violence in the bedroom, fatally alarming Tim Armitt's Polonius, the latter tremulously holding up the token arras through which the enraged Hamlet thrusts his dagger.

Anna Hale, as the abused Ophelia, called forth our pity despite the comic business, and Tim Childs mocked death as both Ghost and Gravedigger. Sarah Chapman and Ben Stoll (15) showed great versatility playing 7 parts between them, together opening the play on the battlements and together at the final duel, Sarah as Laertes with the poisoned rapier and Ben as Osric declaring the palpable hit.

After applause curtailed by encore, we had a two minute fast forward repeat of the action, with all the bodies ending in a heap. Side-splitting.

What would Shakespeare make of all this? He would join in the fun (and briefly did so in the guise of Ed, opening the proceedings before donning Claudius's crown). But seriously, what other tragic author could stand the ribbing without risk of mockery? Shakespeare can take it. And it was an added pleasure, as we left the theatre, that the greatness of the original could be so happily recalled by this wonderful knockabout.

To see lots more photographs of the two plays, see our GALLERIES section