Imagine if the “rude mechanicals” from A Midsummer Night’s Dream were asked to stage Hamlet in just an hour and with only three people.
Presenting a patchwork of key moments from Shakespeare’s tragedy, 6FootStories’ Hamlet: Rotten States displays exactly this sort of playful ambition and genial humour.
A lucidly energetic trio – comprised of Will Bridges, Amy Fleming and Jake Hassam – exchange the main characters among themselves, sometimes going so far as to split a single speech three ways, as in their astute delivery of Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. Though their spirited performances display a wide tonal range, they often occupy a positively strange middle ground between the solemn and the jocular.
The actors’ rollercoaster ride through Hamlet takes place in a rehearsal room decorated with hand-drawn posters and a wild assortment of props. Some of these — including a mannequin head, a teddy bear and several bisque figurines — are occasionally drawn into the action to stand in for additional characters.
The fluctuations of the production, however, are not served well by its erratically colourful lighting and scattershot sound design.
For all its welcome quirks, this take on Hamlet unnecessarily keeps its audience in the dark about its overarching purpose. We learn all too late that this bizarre undertaking is supposed to be the play commissioned by Hamlet to catch the conscience of his uncle.
Hamlet doesn’t really need a greatest hits album, but the canny selections of this one still prove pleasing.