October 27-December 5, 2010
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No other play better depicts the calamitous downfall to insanity than William Shakespeare’s Hamlet. To understand the emotions that follow treachery, loss, and vengeance, is difficult enough,but to perform Shakespeare’s poetically tragic story of Hamlet is a challenge on its own. Seattle Shakespeare Company was no fault to the task however. The theater performed the play with such tenacity, it was a stupendous performance to celebrate their 20th year anniversary.
Cast of Hamlet. Photo by John Ulman
Hamlet (Darragh Kennan) is the young prince of Denmark who is trying to cope with the recent death of his father, King Hamlet (Charles Leggett). Not only has his father just died, but within a few months after his fathers death his mother, Queen Gertrude (Mary Ewald), marries his uncle Claudius (Richard Ziman) who becomes the next king of Denmark. Hamlet is both in a state of depression of his father’s death and deeply disturbed at his mother’s hasty marriage to his uncle. It isn't until Hamlet sees the ghost of his late father that he begins to quickly plummet into madness; especially after the ghost reveals that he was murdered by Hamlet’s own kin. The rest of the story slowly unravels as Hamlet plots a number of schemes to avenge his father’s death. It doesn't take long for Hamlet’s dark state to deepen as he attempts to both process his revenge and the many calamities in his life.
Hamlet is considered one of the best tragedies written in the English language. At the Seattle Shakespeare Company, director John Langs intensified Shakespeare’s dramatic tale even more with loud, booming sound effects that made the seats shake. The use of lighting was also a creative touch to the performance.The lighting was used to shift the scenes between Hamlet's crazed soliloquies and back to the play. What also gave epic depth to the play was the cast who performed phenomenally. Each line was spoken with such passion and diligence that the audience forgot to breathe or even shift in their seats.
Although Shakespeare did write Hamlet as a tragedy, it doesn't hold a solum tone for the entire performance. It also maintains Shakespeare’s famous, witty humor. Darragh Kennan, who plays Hamlet, is one actor in particular who received a standing ovation for his performance. His portrayal of Hamlet’s sinking depression was heartbreaking as he gave emotional insight to his character, but also revealed the humorously, intelligent madness that Shakespeare holds within the character of Hamlet.
Darragh Kennan as Hamlet and Mike Dooly as Horatio. Photo by: John Ulman
If the performance and the dramatizing effects are not enough to make this play impressive, so is the hidden symbology.The Seattle Shakespeare Company’s costume designer, Pete Rush, had the cast wear black and white clothing. White symbolized happiness or innocence and black symbolized depression or madness. Hamlet was decked in black throughout the play while the rest of the cast wore brightly white clothing. As the story unfolds however, some of the character's clothing begins to change color. Apart from the clothing, Shakespeare has symbology in his words alone. If you listen carefully, the characters will foreshadow some of the future events that occur within the storyline.
Hamlet is a famous play that has been successfully re-produced for hundreds of years all over the globe. The Seattle Shakespeare Company has now taken a chance for their own unique production of Hamlet. The theater has again proved that through their creative talent they have the ability to turn any Shakespeare play into their very own.