Riverside's Hamlet is a Clumsy Adaptation of a Classic

This modern version set in a prison is a disappointment, says Penny Flood

Related Links

Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, Hammersmith, London W6 9RL Bookings 020 8237 1111

Hiraeth Artistic Productions

Hiraeth's Blog

Local Actors Star in Riverside Studios' Hamlet

Riverside Studios

Online Ticket Booking

Riverside Studios Present New Version of Oscar Wilde's Dorian Gray

You'll Kick Yourself If You Miss The Great Gatsby

Riverside's Film Noir Othello is a Corker


Sign up for a free newsletter from ChiswickW4.com HammersmithToday.co.uk

Hamlet at the Riverside was a disappointment. It’s billed as a "visceral and unflinching exploration of isolation, paranoia and revenge". Which is fair enough, because that’s how Shakespeare wrote it.

But the production company, Hiraeth Artistic Productions, claims to be dedicated to creating exciting and stylistically innovative theatre and that’s not what happened here.

They’ve taken the original script, lobbed off two hours, not a bad thing as the original is four hours long, added some nudity and the sort of foul language you’d expect to hear at a football match, and set the whole thing in a Liverpool prison.

Instead of offering a new take on classic, it just comes across as a clumsy adaptation. If I hadn’t read the press release I would never have known that in this production, Hamlet is the son of the city’s most infamous crime lord. He might have mentioned it when he was being admitted to prison but I couldn’t hear what he said because of a raucous blast of music.

Fiddling with a classic script is only forgivable if it adds something. Kennenth Branagh famously did it with Twelfth Night, also at the Riverside, when he switched the first two scenes around, and that worked, but he didn’t actually try to change the play.

Setting Hamlet in a prison in Liverpool made the all the chat about Denmark rather ridiculous, along with the fact that the inmates were old friends and, apart from some awkward shifting of bars between scenes and a few fights, they could have been in a pub or any social setting.

But this is not to ignore some great individual performances.  Adam Laurence is terrific as Hamlet, playing him not so much as a moody prince who descends into madness but a grief stricken young man whose world has collapsed.

Joyce Greenaway as his mother Gertrude is great, starting out as an unpleasant, slightly vulgar woman who seems to be satisfied about what’s going on around her, but transforms into a loving mother who truly cares for her distraught son.

And Jessica White is lovely as the fragile, tragic Ophelia, whose descent into madness and subsequent suicide is handled beautifully by some clever lighting.

And that’s my last review from the Riverside Studios for at least two years, maybe forever, as it’s going to be demolished and rebuilt. I have no doubt the transformation will be a good thing, but I’ve been coming here since it first opened and have grown fond of its awkwardness and its nooks and crannies, and I’m going to miss it.

I hope when it returns they continue to give young production companies, like Hiraeth, the opportunity to show their works, to carry on experimenting and exploring new ways of looking at the world, even if they’re not my cup of tea.

Hamlet, which runs from two hours and ten minutes is suitable for ages 14+ is on at Riverside Studios in Crisp Road until June 22. To buy tickets, call the box office on 020 8237 1111 or book online.


May 28, 2014