Café Theatre, London WC2
Opened 14 January, 1992

A one-man Hamlet could so easily become a folie de grandeur, but David Elliot has both the ability and thoughtfulness to avoid the quagmire of hollow histrionics. His adaptation has weaknesses: diary segments flirt dangerously with sterile adolescent introspection, forced audience participation injects a note of malice, Polonius's characterisation as a troglodyte Jim Bowen is facile and misrepresentative. But Elliot's energy and acuity almost carry the enterprise off. Almost...

It does become clear that Hamlet needs others to respond to – not on tape, nor implied by emblematic props, nor a bewildered punter with a rapier thrust into his hand, but proper physical presences. Deprived both of actual bodies and of vast tracts of script to resonate off (granted which he would be a riveting Hamlet), Elliot tacitly relies on audience familiarity with the play much more than he realises. The set is aptly hung with empty picture-frames for, though retaining the emotional palette and the varied brush-strokes, he has deprived himself of the canvas on which to apply them.

Written for City Limits magazine.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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