Outdoor theatre is an experience like no other: bringing art into the open air and immersing the audience into the performance. Taking advantage of the beautiful summer weather, Driftwood Theatre Group performed Hamlet in Kitchener’s Civic Centre Park, between Kitchener Public Library and Centre in the Square, on July 28. For Driftwood, the outdoor venue is constantly changing, as the “Bard’s Bus Tour” travels to 26 Ontario communities this summer.
Driftwood’s Hamlet is a darkly comical and moving piece of theatre that even those new to Shakespeare can enjoy. It takes a simple and conversational Hamlet whose world is turned upside down after the death of his father and his mother’s new marriage.
Having seen Hamlet a few times, it is easy to appreciate the shorter script and faster pacing in Driftwood’s Hamlet, adapted by Toby Malone. Malone’s adaption of Hamlet draws from two versions of the script: the 1603 (first) quatro and the 1623 folio. The quatro brings quick pacing that lends itself well to the outdoor staging, and Malone manages to keep folio’s more familiar monologues and layer them into the quatro’s narrative. Experience the story in a new way with unfamiliar lines and reorganized scenes.
The set, inspired by a prison motif, gives a harsh and grim tone to the piece. Concrete slabs, chain-link fencing, and barbed wire surround the stage, while a bare metal bed frame and a single folding chair make up the sparse furniture. Transitions between scenes are seamless in the prison-like world of Hamlet’s Denmark, with only a cappella vocals and sounds to underscore a shift in the scenery.
The small cast plays multiple roles with ease. Eight actors take to the stage in this interpretation, often double or triple cast. Jon de Leon plays both an imposing Claudius and a frightening ghost, with a chilling mask-like head (an incredible prop). His wife Gertrude, played by Nehassaiu deGannes shows a clear love for her son. Motherhood eventually trumps both power and marital love. Ophelia’s descent into madness is heart-wrenching, as Natasha Mumba’s portrayal is equal parts powerful and fragile. Richard Alan Campbell is a joy to watch as Polonius. Christopher Darroch and Steven Burley play an amusing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as Hamlet’s frat-boy-style friends.
Paolo Santalucia stars as Hamlet in his Driftwood debut. Santalucia brings to the stage a witty Hamlet, but also shows the pain, anger, and betrayal that haunt the character. The choice of a female Horatio, played by Sarah Finn, leads to subtle changes in the text. The chemistry between Horatio and Hamlet skirts the line between loyal friend and lover, leading to some of the show’s best scenes.
Driftwood Theatre Group’s production of Hamlet continues to tour around Ontario until August 16.