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A review by Vanessa Bunn for EXTRA! EXTRA!




The Rose, Bankside presents



Jonathan Broadbent as Hamlet and Suzanne Marie as Ophelia in Hamlet at The Rose

Photo by Robert Workman


by William Shakespeare

Directed by Martin Parr

Designed by Rebecca Brower

Costume Design - Charlotte Espiner

Stage Manager – Alex Pearson

The Rose

5 February – 3 March 2013


Dull, drunk lighting emanates from twin tin shades. The carefully excavated foundations of The Rose Theatre are concealed in darkness behind a black covering. Intermittent dripping and cold, damp air belies the reburial of this unmatched site of historical importance upon discovery in 1989. And so the scene is set, an Elsinore in a rotten state, more intensely rendered than any amount of fog, smoke or special effects could ever summon. The spirit of King Hamlet (voiced by Simon Russell Beale) communicates with his frightened son through a crackling transistor radio. By torchlight, Hamlet (Jonathan Broadbent) and the engrossed audience learn the terrible truth about the death of his beloved father, and so the ultimate revenge tragedy unfolds.

Hamlet, seated in the audience, delivers his first soliloquy from relative darkness and obscurity. Dressed in a winter coat and donning thick-rimmed glasses he could pass for another enthusiastic visitor to The Rose. And this one of the great strengths of this production, its wholly inclusive and immersive feel. Every word is felt, characters reach out to an audience so involved in the action that they are unfazed. Jonathan Broadbent emerges as a most tender, deep and broody Hamlet, and the seeds are sown for his staged descent into madness later in the play.

Hamlet, as pointed out in director Martin Parr’s introduction, is awash with references to façade, appearance, pretence and deceit. This production is given an extra dimension through the fact that three of the actors play more than one part, tremendously contrasting parts at that. Suzanne Marie is utterly convincing and consuming as both cold, guilty Gertrude and hapless, ethereal Ophelia. Liam McKenna is both devious Claudius and busybody Polonius. Jamie Sheasby makes three very separate turns as noble Laertes, well-meaning Rosencrantz and the Gravedigger.

Ophelia’s tragic, unending, knitted red scarf is inspired. A beguiling, but often background figure in larger productions, Suzanne Marie ensures that for this intimate staging at The Rose, Ophelia is wholly captivating and her complexities borne out with wonderfully affecting use of the longest, saddest looking scarf I have ever beheld, and later a string of red lights at the waters-edge.

Plenty of violent exchanges infiltrate the more sombre action and Hamlets’ many pensive soliloquies. Laertes return on hearing of his fathers’ death sees him throw a resilient Claudius against the divide between stage space and the original theatre, an acutely rendered void. Claudius delivers Hamlet a very convincing slap in the face, and when Hamlet stages a play with the intention of confirming Claudius’ murderous guilt the results are a violent spectacle. A closing bout between Laertes and Hamlet is as leaden with deceit and accompanying suspense as could be conceived of in such a space. Even a gaffe involving the transistor radio through which King Hamlet has communicated the truth of his death to his son is calmly brushed over, testament to the engrossing experience that this intimate and passionate staging of Hamlet provides.
The Rose, Bankside
 56 Park Street, SE1 9AS
Box Office: 0207 261 9565
Tickets - £12 / £10 concessions



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