Crowds flock to open-air Hamlet

VIDEO HUNDREDS of spectators gathered to witness the first night of Red Rose Chain's production of Hamlet.

Hamlet, Red Rose Chain, Rendlesham Forest, until August 26

HUNDREDS of spectators gathered to witness the first night of Red Rose Chain's production of Hamlet.

Against the atmospheric backdrop of Rendlesham Forest, the cast enthralled and entertained the audience for more than two hours last night.

Many had chosen to make a night of it, having arrived well before the start of the show to set up rugs and seats to enjoy picnics.

The crowd of about 600 people, some with their own seats and others situated in the seating area on a raised bank, amassed in a clearing in the woods where the talented ensemble performed their version of William Shakespeare's tragedy.

After the success of last year's performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the company chose Hamlet in a bid to continue their philosophy of making Shakespeare accessible to all.

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Director Jo Carrick had to cut the length of the play by almost half, yet I don't think it suffers for this - instead ensuring your attention is held throughout.

All the actors, perhaps most notably Jimmy Grimes as Hamlet, brought the play to life, and thanks to its use of comedy and music, made it appealing to all ages.

Grimes' ability to switch emotions from angst to madness to hilarity managed to engage the audience to his tragic end.

Among the more memorable scenes was the one just before Ophelia's funeral, where Hamlet, Horatio and two gravediggers deviated from the 15th script and launched into a comical song about bones, accompanied by an amusing dance.

The team of seven young actors did a fine job as the supporting chorus throughout the show and I thought it was a nice touch to have them, and many of the other actors, directing cars to the car park and selling programmes at the interval.

One of the more special things about the show must surely be the venue. Theatre in the forest really strips the acting back to basics, forcing the performance to rely on strong acting, simple lighting and an uncomplicated set. As night fell, the setting helped to evoke a certain eeriness, and together with the echoes from the actors' cries, there was a haunting feeling which added to the dramatic effect.

Despite suffering the coolness of the night air towards the end, this play definitely delivered on all fronts and I would recommend it as an enjoyable summer's evening out.

To book tickets call the box office on 01473 288886 or visit www.theatreintheforest.com.

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