REVIEW: Snowglobe Theatre tackles Hamlet

A modern artistic approach to a well-known classic, this Shakespearean masterpiece is set in renaissance times. It all comes together around the question of “To be, or not to be”.

One of the longest-known popular plays, Hamlet has been performed all over the world and is a staple of any classical theatre repertoire. In this production, the title role can be compared to running a theatrical marathon over the course of nearly three hours.

The play starts with a depressed Prince Hamlet, returning home from school to attend his father’s funeral. He finds his mother has already remarried his uncle Claudius, who has crowned himself king, instead of the crown going to Hamlet. Suspicions arise of foul play, confirmed by his father’s ghost visiting the castle. His father asks Hamlet to avenge him, but to spare Gertrude (his wife).

Questioning whether the ghost was indeed his father or a figure from the devil, Hamlet hires actors to perform a play, recreating the murder of his father described by the ghost. Hamlet names the play The Mousetrap. As Hamlet had hoped, Claudius reacts in panic and leaves the room. Convinced now that Claudius is a villain, Hamlet resolves to kill him. As Hamlet observes, “conscience doth make cowards of us all.”

While reluctant to kill Claudius, Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius. Claudius punishes Hamlet with exile in England. He brings Hamlet’s school chums Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in to spy on his nephew, instructing them to deliver Hamlet into the English king’s hands for execution.
Ophelia, in love with Hamlet, is distraught over her fathers death and Hamlets behavior. She drowns while singing sad love songs bemoaning the fate of a spurned lover. Ophelia’s brother,Laertes, returns to avenge his father’s death.

In twists of events, the audience is taken through many surprises as the story becomes increasingly complicated.

This production features an impressively diverse cast. The title role, performed by Abbott Theatre graduate, Chance Jones-Sauray, was performed with a very personal approach that worked very well for this production. Jones-Sauray showed passion, energy and enthusiasm throughout the demanding and challenging role. Jones-Sauray throws in a powerful, passionate, soulful and modern approach to Hamlet, with many movements and gestures common in contemporary pop culture. Jones-Sauray, was a delight to watch and kept audiences engaged by bringing life and energy to the story throughout the entire production.

Lowell Gasoi, as Claudius, was equally captivating, demonstrating character depth, with a wide array of interactions and acting styles throughout his performance. At the end of the show, I left the theatre wondering how both Gasoi and Jones-Sauray would do in a contemporary or musical theatre piece, given their energy, artistic approach, and talent on-stage.

Michael Loewen, as Laertes, demonstrated passion, rage, frustration, hope and love throughout his performance. Loewens Laertes was a great contrast to Hamlets cocky, overconfident, but very fun side of the sword fight.

Other highlights include the comedic timing from Barnardo/Lucianus (performed by Will Fech), and Lars Lih’s wise performance as Polonius.
One of the surprise highlights, was the (unfortunately short) introduction of the unique and charming portrayal of the Gravedigger by Zamera Amy Topolovec. The bubbly and energetic,Topolovec delivered a stellar performance with a lot of physical humour. Her performance was well supported by Toronto’s Devan Upham, in the role of the Doctor.

The Espace Knoz is a wonderful space to perform a work like Hamlet. However, the quality of the set pieces brought into the space by Snowglobe could be improved.

The Snowglobe Theatre production of Hamlet gave artists liberties to take a personal approach to their characters and experiment in their roles. Importantly, it showcased promising talent in Montreal. This production has certainly highlighted some names to watch over the years to come.
Snowglobe Theatres production of Hamlet is playing at the Espace Knox, until May 12.

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