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Hamlet review at Octagon Theatre, Bolton – ‘epic and intimate’

David Ricardo-Pearce in Hamlet at Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Davenport David Ricardo-Pearce in Hamlet at Octagon Theatre, Bolton. Photo: Richard Davenport
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In the 50th anniversary year of Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, current artistic director Elizabeth Newman has invited back previous holders of the role to create new work – Hamlet is David Thacker’s gift to the theatre.

David Ricardo-Pearce’s Hamlet makes the audience an accomplice to his every thought and action. He smiles and winks his way through his soliloquies while offering up Yorick’s skull to the front row.

It makes for a production that, while epic in scale – largely thanks to James Cotterill’s set – also feels intimate. Ricardo-Pearce’s prince is a mischievous and amusing presence and Thacker’s production is infused with religious and political symbolism. Eric Potts’ bumbling Polonius is recast as a priest, and photographs of leaders past (Hamlet’s father) and present (his uncle) adorn the set like icons.

Thacker’s experience of directing for television shows through and at times the production feels like a particularly bloody episode of House of Cards. When Brian Protheroe’s oleaginous Claudius dismisses Claire Hackett’s Cornelia (replacing the usually male character of Cornelius in this production) and turns to speak to the audience, it can’t help but bring to mind Francis Urquhart.

Thacker has a command of stage and his production contains a number of beautiful tableaux. Hamlet can sometimes feel like a one-man show, but, here, the brilliantly informal performance of Ricardo-Pearce helps to avoid that.


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David Thacker’s assured production features an intimate and informal performance from David Ricardo-Pearce