The riddle is why The Sphinx (formerly Women's Theatre Group) should have produced this, the most unjustifiably hyped show in months. I feel positively defrauded.
On paper it looks terrific: Hamlet through the filter of Moll Cutpurse, the cross-dressing roisterer of the period – setting up a dialectic about gender and roles. The reality is shockingly deficient: a three-minute prologue followed by a three-hour-plus version of Hamlet, virtually uncut and (although making skilful use of the Warehouse space) stultifyingly unadventurous. No further reference to Moll is made, either textually or in Alexandra Mathie's performance as Claudius.
Yes, the actors are all female. Yes, some of them play male parts in breeches and others in skirts (with no discernible basis for the differentiation). Big deal. For the first twenty or so minutes, references to gender resonate feebly as a result of the set-up, but as no further effort whatever is made on this score, even those twinges swiftly evaporate. The Sphinx have thoroughly ignored all the possibilities opened by their idea; the resulting show deserves a similar response.
Written for City Limits magazine.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
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