Lord Hamlet is mad.
But what does that mean?
The provocative production at Frome’s Merlin theatre tonight explored this question like peeling skins from a schizoid onion. The players become characters, characters players, with even the observing audience implicated in the eyes of the paranoid prince. Directed with exuberant bravado by Ben Macfadyen, this innovative production enhances menace through masks, hi-impact physicality, dance, and even disturbing humour- as when Hamlet turns ventriloquist with the limp body of Polonius. In a script that impressively holds the emotional story while playing hideandseek with the best-known speeches, the famous soliloquy is saved for the finale.
Is he even mad at all? Or are all these occurrences merely figments of his imagination? Who is in control? ask the programme notes, which explain the brief was to produce 'an anagram of Hamlet'.
At the helm is an A-level examination piece for the seven young people who took part; the examiner was seated among the awestruck audience crowded onstage around the action and the prince’s line ‘Madam, how like you this play?’ was addressed with ingenuous charm towards her. I hope the lady's marking did not protest too much.