Hamlet: A Very Palpable Hit by Kimberley Johnston

Are you suffering from a Hamletian dilemma about whether to go or not to go to ACT ( a community theatre)’s latest Shakespearean offering?  You should most decidedly go.

Director Terry Pratt’s vision of Hamlet is a very palpable hit. The show portrayed choices I had never seen but were exceedingly fun to watch. Pratt, who wrote this version and directed, cut the script extensively but people unfamiliar with the text would not have noticed. The nearly three-hour show held the attention of two very young girls on opening night. The girls seemed very saddened when at the end, spoiler alert, nearly everyone dies.

People who are familiar with ACT’s previous Shakespearean offerings are aware the show takes place out of doors in Stratford and audiences are led from scene to scene around Robert Cotton Park. They may be surprised to learn, however, that the entirety of this year’s play is being performed by only eight actors.
A lot was asked from the performers and they delivered ten-fold. They worked incredibly well together and were all given the opportunity to shine in at least one scene where their raw talents and energies could be showcased, no matter how many parts they played.
Sara McCarthy and Keir Malone, who each played four different parts, were entertaining in all of their roles. I loved McCarthy most as Gravedigger 1. She held nothing back belting out a tune (written by Pratt) whilst digging up skulls. Malone’s acting and physical agility was best demonstrated in his portrayal as Laertes, both when his sister Ophelia was found drowned and during the fencing scene with Hamlet.
T. Noah J. Nazim as Hamlet was exciting to watch. His madness (whether there was method in it or not) was captivating. This was Nazim’s first experience with ACT. I’m anxious to see him in more theatre in the future.
Lindsay Gillis’s ACT debut as Ophelia (Hamlet’s love interest) was breathtaking. Her final  scene exposed  the audience to her amazing singing voice as sweet Ophelia loses touch with reality. Especially poignant was when she picks reeds from the Stratford shoreline and passes them out, believing them to be various flowers.
ACT veterans Ashley Clark, Richard Haines and Catherine MacDonald were stellar as ever in their roles. Gordon Cobb as Polonius was the highlight for me. Cobb mastered the verbose speeches of the king’s advisor and demonstrated some excellent physical comedy, especially with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (Malone and McCarthy respectively, I think).
Cobb’s portrayal of Polonius made me ask questions of Hamlet that I never thought to ask before, such as: Was Polonius aware of Claudius’s betrayal in killing Hamlet’s father? Nazim’s most  hilarious moment was as he pulled Polonius’s lifeless body behind the gazebo.
In a production of this magnitude and with so many moving parts, it takes a talented crew to make the cast look this good. McCarthy underwent several challenging costume changes, I would think, in the curtained gazebo that doubled as Queen Gertrude’s bed chamber and the final resting place of Polonius. The costumes, hair and makeup were on point, as was everything to do with this production, from the music arrangements to the mobility cart driver.
It will be difficult for ACT to top this play next year, but I sincerely hope they try.