Hamlet3So, here we find ourselves in another January with another Faction repertory season in full swing. ‘Under the Stars’ has the privilege of reviewing all three of this year’s shows at the fabulous New Diorama Theatre, and what better way to start on a cold winter’s night than with the Bard’s longest tragedy.

Mark Leipacher’s production of Hamlet is dark and intense, confident and eerie. As is so often the Faction’s way, there is no real set to speak of and the dress is modern and unspectacular, the production relying on the skill of the actors and Leipacher’s ever-slick direction to make its impact.

Leipacher’s inventive spark seems to go from strength to strength and there is no shortage of his customary innovative tricks and theatrical devices, the best of which is the projection of a brooding Simon Russell Beale as the ghost of Hamlet’s father, who, for the main part, appears on a makeshift collage balanced by the ensemble. This works really well, with Beale’s incredible delivery meshing with the immediacy of the recorded voice to create a startling effect. Another interesting highlight is the use of human heads to depict skulls during the graveyard scene. Said human heads are thankfully still attached to ensemble members and it all makes for an interesting touch.

Despite a few botched lines here and there, performances are strong across the board. Jonny McPherson’s Hamlet is brooding and technically excellent, switching masterfully between introspection and comedy as the character’s tragic flaw of procrastination and all of its consequences are played out before our eyes. The soliloquies are particularly impressive with McPherson moving in close to the audience and addressing them directly. Every time he does this, it is as though Shakespeare wrote this play with exactly the whites-of-eyes type of intimacy the New Diorama provides in mind. Other performances of note are Kate Sawyer’s excellent portrayal of a Gertrude who displays the gamut of emotion from smug victory to tragic realisation perfectly and Cary Crankson’s chilled dude of a Laertes whose exchanges with his sister verge on the sinister. Hamlet runs in rep at the New Diorama Theatre with Thebes and The Robbers until 22 February.

Photo by Charlie Ward.