Hamlet, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory, Bristol

hamlet-at-sttf.--photo-by-mark-douet.-c31b0302-she-1455709424THE 2016 season opened at the Tobacco Factory in Bedminster with Andrew Hilton’s production of Hamlet, with young Irish actor Alan Mahon at its heart.

This is the first UK appearance for the 23 year old Dubliner who graduated as a Bachelor of Acting just 18 months ago. And of course it is the biggest role in the canon for a young actor – and sometimes those not so young.

He exhibits none of the pressure in this febrile performance. Here is a man mourning his father’s sudden death, stunned by his mother’s equally sudden re-marriage and questioning the meaning of life. When he’s told that his father’s unquiet ghost haunts the castle battlements it’s hardly surprising that he’s cast into mania and depression. Surrounded by pedants and sycophants, he fights to keep his focus and his sanity.

The story is familiar, and Hilton, with his usual clarity, has pruned the play of many extraneous moments, cutting more than 45 minutes from its full running length.

hamlet-at-sttf.--photo-by-mark-douet.-c31b9273-1455709371Hamlet’s fellow students Rosencrantz  and Guildenstern are cut back almost to Stoppardian form.

Isabella Marshal is an exceptional Ophelia, tearing the heartstrings with her grief, madness and misery. Ian Barritt is her very recognisable windbag of a father.

Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory regular Paul Currier is a silkily premeditated Claudius, but there is no chemistry between him and Queen Gertrude (Julia Hills) so the question of ambition or lust doesn’t really arise.

Alan Mahon’s prince will grow in stature as the run continues, at the Tobacco Factory until 26th March and then touring until 25th June. But its a hugely promising start, and allows new audiences to discover the play and the incredible number of quotations it has provided without the distraction of a star in the title role, however good he may be.


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