Review: ETG 2022 Hamlet

After a successful tour around Europe, Hamlet comes home to take the ADC Theatre by storm.

The Cambridge University European Theatre Group has been touring annual Shakespeare plays around Europe for over 50 years; after an unfortunate pause due to Covid, the CUETG play is back and is better than ever in this truly wonderful production of Hamlet. Its homerun at the ADC Theatre began this week which already attracted a massive crowd on the opening night.

Shakespeare’s famous tale of grief, instability, and family is cast in a new light under the innovative direction of Ilona Sell, whose vision encourages us to enter “the inner psychology of Hamlet instead of the peripheral setting he finds himself in”. And indeed, we enter the deep psyche of not only Hamlet but also the minds of the people surrounding him, in an affective and moving production that immerses the audience in a world somewhere beyond our tangible reality.

Image credits: Ed De’Ath

This is largely to do with the immersion the limited set presents, as the audience becomes more sensitive to things like the brilliant lighting and absolutely haunting music that accompanied the scene transitions. A suspension of disbelief was achieved also due to the highly polished nature of the play as a whole: scene changes almost seemed like dances, as people and props moved seemingly in unison, and every movement throughout the play was clearly intricately choreographed to perfection, from a really convincing fight scene to the passing out of flowers.

Image credits: Ed De’Ath

And of course, the brilliance of the play is also attributed to the clearly devoted cast. Playing the lead role, Jacob Benhayoun‘s Hamlet was a fresh and brilliant take on the tortured prince. He is especially talented at balancing comedic moments with absolutely heart-wrenching ones, as he delves deeper into the madness that he portrays with a bittersweet poignancy.

And speaking of poignancy, Sarah Mulgrew‘s Ophelia is nothing short of heartbreaking, in a portrayal that makes her pain seem more human in a way that is less often seen in the more melodramatic portrayals, which results in a new feeling of closeness to her. As a pair, the duo show great chemistry, adding to the tragedy of their inevitable separation.

Mark Jones‘ Claudius was incredibly entertaining to watch, with his haggard movements and slimy tones that really bring the antagonist to life. And his counterpart, Gertrude, played by Laurie Ward, acted as the perfect problematic mother figure, whose lamentations were especially moving. The pair’s more intimate moments also packed a punch, highlighting moments of incestuous horror in their transgressive relations.

As well as this, Horatio, Polonius and Laertes (played by Joy Adeogun, Jemima Langdon and Jake Fenton) and the brilliantly multi-rolled characters (Coco WheelerJules Coyle and Kiko Gomersall) offered much-appreciated interludes of comedy (accompanied by the roaring laughter of the audience) and tense drama (you could hear a pin drop).

Image credits: Ed De’Ath

You can feel how much love and effort went into this production of Hamlet: it seeps from the maddening words of a grief-struck son, the shadows that move and evoke ghosts and demons, and the moments alone and with others that fill the empty space of the sheet wall. And so, another year of CUETG adds to the absolute joy it is to watch Cambridge theatre; it is truly stunning that such a clean and immersive production was created, due to the equally stunning minds of all the people involved.

To see Hamlet or not to see Hamlet, that is the question. (The answer is to go see Hamlet while you still can!)


Hamlet is showing on the 17th – 21st of January at 7:45 pm at the ADC Theatre and also on the 21st of January at 2:30 pm. Book your tickets here.

Feature image credit: Anna Piper-Thompson

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