Fresh from the success of initiating no less than four CATS awards earlier this year, Dominic Hill’s stint as the Citizens’ Artistic Director is one to watch. As the auditorium doors open for another performance of Hamlet, an open plan stage eagerly awaits its audience; leaving little to the imagination yet still establishing a mysterious abandoned warehouse feel to the darkened space. Instruments and vintage recording equipment are placed throughout the set (designed by Tom Piper) and the actors use these props accordingly, providing Nikola Kodjabashia’s gloomy score; an interesting accompaniment of rock-esque musical interludes and not-so-subtle discordant outbursts.
The contemporary twists come thick and fast as Hamlet lounges around in only his underwear, munching on cereal and obsessively dictating for his tape recorder. Ophelia too belts out a particularly memorable and intense song as her madness spirals out of control and even in death she can be seen reclining in a bath, calmly blowing bubbles and reaching out to touch them.
Brian Ferguson’s Hamlet is nervous and agitated. He first fears but then joins forces with the spirit of his father, vowing to avenge his father’s killer, Hamlet’s own uncle Claudius, the menacing Peter Guinness. Meghan Tyler as the damaged Ophelia is a disturbing and fascinating performance whilst Roberta Taylor’s Gertrude is merely a husky voice and flailing legs.
The final scenes are played out with exquisite flair. Ophelia hands out alcohol as opposed to flowers and later watches with amusement as her own grave is created. The denouement perhaps falls slightly flat but Ferguson’s Hamlet is consistently obscure and unpredictable, his performance curious and gripping.
At the heart of Hill’s production is a series of complicated family relationships. From Polonius’ physical and mental power over Ophelia to Hamlet’s loathing for his uncle, Shakespeare’s tragedy is no more the tale of a Prince and the fate of his country but a study of dysfunctional relationships, abuse, love and hate.