Visual effects and fights make for an impressive “Hamlet”

“Denmark is a prison,” the title character says to his friend Guildenstern in the play ‘Hamlet’. I think the director took this quote to heart in his creative vision for the theatre department’s production of Hamlet, that was performed from November 18th to the 23rd on the center stage in the SCSU Performing Arts Center.

Hamlet is a hefty endeavor to undertake. It is William Shakespeare’s longest play ever written, and is considered to be one of the most influential tragedies in English literature. It is difficult for a generally young cast to convey the deep meanings and dark themes clearly while reciting 400 year old Shakespearean language. I believe this production did a pretty admirable job of retelling the legendary play, with impressive costumes, set design, projection, and fight choreography.

The set design in Hamlet is dark and dank looking. It’s industrial-looking structure resembles a prison quite well. The setting for the play looks possibly 19th century, with an almost steampunk vibe to it as well. The industrial look of the set is reflected in the costumes, with actors wearing combat boots and dark colors throughout. The costume designer did a good job of contrasting colors to reflect the characters, with brother and sister Laertes and Ophelia wearing white the entire play. It does well to juxtapose the black clothes of Hamlet, though I do wonder why they made Laertes look like a member of One Direction with his white suit emblazoned with silver stripes and his Bieber side-swept hair.

Adam Raine, one of the three SCSU alumni who were involved in Hamlet was the lighting/projection designer. His contributions made the play visually captivating, with his projections of the ghost of King Hamlet and other characters projected on fragments hanging above the set.

Jessica Smith, another SCSU alum, who received her MFA from the Savannah College of Art and Design with an emphasis in acting and fight directing, choreographed the combat and movement for the play. The fencing scene between Hamlet and Laertes was probably the most anticipated moment of the play, as the play advertised since auditions that they were going to have a fencing choreographer. The fight scene certainly met my expectations, and it looked to me that the actors had rehearsed plenty, they did not disappoint. The metal clinking sounds of the fighting and how realistic it looked practically made me cringe the whole time. The fencing scene almost made up for the awkardness of a dance sequence that came before it. The cast performed an 18th century style dance that was the transition into the climactic scene. I was sitting there perplexed, not sure what to think of the ordeal. I thought it detracted from the seriousness of the play, especially with the cheesy climactic score underneath it that came from some recent blockbuster that I unfortunately can’t recall.

In general, the production did well at captivating and not getting sleepy for most of the play. The play originally runs at around four hours, so it was understandable that they cut it short for a university production. The acting wasn’t stiff, which helped me follow what was going on, though I do remember one particular scene after the intermission that had gone stale. The scene, between Claudius and Laertes, had gone a bit off the rail, evidently seen as a man sitting in front of me unintentionally fell asleep for a bit.

I enjoyed this production of Hamlet. The set and costume design was visually appealing and the visual projection was impressive to this mass communications student. I also enjoyed the performances from a diverse cast of actors of different ages rounding out the believable character portrayals. I recommend that the theatre department bring back SCSU alumni more often to put on plays, because they obviously have a talent for it.

Final Verdict: 8/10


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