Hamlet at the Stanley Theatre by Liverpool University Drama Society

“To be or not to be… good.” That is the actual question when it comes to Hamlet, a play done, so often, with differing degrees of success depending on the cast trying to perform it. While there have been many terrible productions of Shakespeare’s seminal stage-play, Liverpool University Drama Society decisively brought it to life on opening night, 26th November.

The cast, by and large, were fantastic. The chemistry between the actors was on fire that night, and there was no third wheel in any scene. Everyone pulled their weight on-stage, but the stand-out performance definitely came from Niall Bradshaw, playing the role of Horatio, who showed some terrific acting chops and demonstrated that there is a bright future ahead of him. Not to be outdone, however, Alex Webber-Date in the titular role was spectacular, showing particular flashes of genius throughout the play, but none stronger than Hamlet’s death scene – a fine performance indeed. Katie Moncaster turned in a dazzling performance as Ophelia, playing off the male leads wonderfully, leading to her stealing the scene on more than one occasion. George Trier also turned in a terrific comedic performance as the gravedigger in a scene that left the audience in stitches, doing well to provide some relief after the heavier scenes that came prior.

However, a great production does not rest solely on the shoulders of the cast, and it can be happily reported that the direction by Madelaine Smart was impeccable, especially in the excellent use of stagecraft. Dry ice made the scene in which Hamlet talks to his dead father all the more ethereal, while the use of the upper gallery in which to position the fallen king as he barks at Hamlet’s conscience, was unexpected and delightful. Perhaps the crowning moment of excellence for the lighting production, handled by Jamie Pugh, was red lighting symbolising blood to close the show. As such, the technical aspects of the play well complemented the skills of the cast.

Of particular note was the make-up, which was superbly done. Handled by hair and make-up artist Alaa Jasim, the make-up effects really stood out, especially on the ghostly king, who was painted to be pale and spectral, very much contributing to the character’s uncanny nature.

While the production of Hamlet put on by LUDS was an expertly executed show and was a brilliant night for all involved, there was a more serious reason behind the production of the play. Program sales were donated to Smile Train, an international charity that seeks to help children with unrepaired cleft lips. According to the charity, over 170,000 children in LEDCs are born with cleft lip but cannot afford surgery, making LUDS’ production of Hamlet not just a fantastic play but a good contribution to a great cause.

Liverpool University Drama Society blew the audience away, and if their performance is a sign of things to come, then their upcoming play, A Christmas Carol on the 3rd, 4th, and 5th of December should be spectacular – well recommended if you want to see the next generation of top theatre actors do what they do best.

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