"it had me in tears"
by Aline Waites for remotegoat on 01/07/19

The Shakespeare in the open air, in the lovely gardens of the Actors Church, is a yearly treat. This year Daniel Winder artistic director of Iris Theatre is giving us a non-binary production starring transgender actor Jenet Le Lacheur.
The main distinction of this production is the perfect rendering of Hamlet's best-known monologues.
'What a piece of work is Man' had me in tears.

Hamlet is played with incredible clarity by Jenet Le Lacheur, who is correct in nearly every detail. Intelligent, intellectual, misogynistic, a kind of spoilt child and a bully. Hamlet bullies Ophelia, Gertrude and Polonius. (in this production – all women) He is fighting against the rule of his uncle who he believes has killed his father, the older Hamlet, to become King and marry Gertrude. Of course, on the death of his father, the younger Hamlet should have been King. So it is also thwarted ambition on his part.
Unlike many productions, the ghost actually appears, and I am afraid, that for me, it has a slightly 'He's behind you' panto effect.

The ghost is often a difficult part to portray, and as technology is involved in much of the play, there are screens everywhere, it is surprising that the shadowy figure, seen only to Hamlet should not have been pre-recorded and shown on the screen. Dressing a man in a white suit with a strange mask does not make it right for me.
I was also worried about Laertes and Ophelia talking about their Mother until I realised that Paula James, a female actress, was playing the part. She should be called Polonia probably, but I daresay that idea was considered and then thrown out..

I am so in favour of the non-binary idea. I believe that everyone is an equal human being no matter what gender they happen to be. But I do think there here are some unnecessary exaggerations. Hamlet was an acceptable young man, but I felt that Ophelia and Polonius despite the quality of their acting, were sadly miscast and difficult to believe in.
The main problem with everything last night was the actual sound. It used to be OK to stand during the scenes and walk about from one place to another during the scene changes. Now there are rows of very low backless benches which are an idea of hell for anyone of a certain age and trouble in the back or knee. Unfortunately, however, unless you were on one of those benches, it was difficult to hear during some of the scenes because of the noise from the piazza where I think they were having a pop concert or something. I was wishing the whole play could have been in front of the Church door where there were plenty of bench seats - with backs to them, and the sound is perfect. I was lucky enough to procure a place there for Hamlet's long soliloquies and the Players' scenes.
The Players are created with members of the cast in lots of masks, makeup and a great deal of fun and joy - giving the production - and Hamlet - an extra dimension.

Is there a way that the noise from the piazza can be stopped? Or that there could be better seats nearer the front for the above-mentioned people of a certain age? Otherwise, my tip is to everyone who can manage it - sit as near to the action as possible to enjoy the whole evening.

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