It’s surely the most well-known play in the English language. If not in its entirety then from its conglomeration of famous lines. By its very nature, Hamlet needs no introduction – as a play or as a character – yet each successive staging seems to require a justification, an explanation of its resonances and relevance. Virginia Woolf once said that “to write down one’s impressions of Hamlet as one reads it year after year would be virtually to record one’s own autobiography, for as we know more of life, so Shakespeare comments on what we know.” Perhaps taking a leaf from Woolf’s sentiments, director Simon Stone has fashioned a compelling new interpretation of Shakespeare’s play, and turns it into a chamber piece for eight actors, a pianist and a singer.
Belvoir’s Hamlet, as with all of Stone’s production, is set upon a plane of dark and light, black and white. Costumed by Mel Page in variations on formal attire, these inhabitants of Stone’s Elsinore seem to inhabit the background of each others’ scenes, giving the play an oddly disconcerting and ghostly presence, which it of course already has, but Stone’s staging concept amplifies it.