Saturday, April 9, 2022



Written by William Shakespeare

Directed by Peter Evans

Bell Shakespeare

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre to 16 April.


Reviewed by Len Power 8 April 2022


It’s no wonder that Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’ resonates with audiences.  For a start, it’s a good action-packed thriller with a great ending.  No matter how it’s produced and acted, there’s always something interesting and debatable about it.

Questions always arise about the characters, their thoughts and the actions they take.  Hamlet’s soliloquies speak directly to us, unlocking our own memories of life’s experiences and the good and bad decisions we have made, especially with regard to family.

In relation to theatre, different approaches by directors and actors reveal new mysteries in the text, often taking our thoughts in a different direction than before.  The through story of the play may be the same, but our experience of it can change every time we see it.

Peter Evans’ production is set in the snowy winter of Denmark in the 1960s.  Anna Tregloan’s set design has a major influence over the action that unfolds.  On the surface it looks beautiful but there’s an icy gloom in the snow-covered trees, the grey skies of the background and the cold simplicity of the Scandinavian furniture.  Hamlet’s signs of depression over his father’s death and mother’s re-marriage are not surprising in that atmosphere.

Hamlet is played by a woman in this production.  Harriet Gordon-Anderson portrays a young male Hamlet with complete believability.  While there is a flinty masculinity on the surface in Hamlet’s physical demeanour, she plays him with a finely considered sensitivity, clearly showing the turmoil of his thoughts under the surface.  Through the superbly delivered soliloquies, she displays the very real danger in the depression that is steering the character towards tragedy.  It’s unsettling and we wish the other characters could see what we know already.

There is excellent work by the other actors in the cast.  Lucy Bell is an especially fine Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.  She’s like a butterfly in a cage, striving to escape and get back to normal.  Ray Chong Nee cleverly gives Claudius, Hamlet’s new step-father, an abrasiveness under a friendly, easy-going personality.  Whether or not it’s true, it’s easy to believe that Hamlet may be right about his step-father’s involvement in the death of his father.

Rose Riley is touching in a very natural performance as Ophelia, a charming young woman tipped over into madness.  Robert Menzies as Polonius, Jack Crumlin as Laertes and Jacob Warner as Horatio all give finely nuanced performances.  James Evans shines with sharply etched portrayals in three roles as the Ghost, the Player King and Gravedigger.  Jeremi Campese, Eleni Cassimatis and Jane Mahady are also very strong in multiple roles.

This production of ‘Hamlet’ just works on all levels and it’s not to be missed.


Len Power's reviews are also broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 in the ‘Arts Cafe’ and ‘Arts About’ programs and published in his blog 'Just Power Writing' at