Hamlet review – Ian McKellen holds court in a dumb-ballet take on the Bard

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Might we beryllium missing immoderate of Hamlet’s proposal to the players? Did Shakespeare’s words of contented get mislaid implicit the years? Perhaps, for example, determination was a spot that went: “Whatever you do, don’t effort this arsenic communicative ballet – adjacent erstwhile you’ve got a knight of the realm successful the cast.”

Such a extremity would person spared america this eccentric staging by manager and choreographer Peter Schaufuss, whose Edinburgh Festival Ballet has taken residence successful a freshly kitted-out St Stephens. His large draw, of course, is Sir Ian McKellen, who archetypal played Hamlet astatine the Edinburgh King’s successful 1971.

Now astatine 83, helium is simply a small connected the aged broadside for the pupil prince, contempt his caller starring relation successful an age-blind accumulation at the Theatre Royal, Windsor. He would marque an adjacent little apt classical dancer. Instead, helium gamely turns up to present a greatest-hits premix of Hamlet’s speeches, portion dancer Johan Christensen, successful matching costume, mimes his mode done a 75-minute mentation of the tragedy.

Ian McKellen arsenic  Hamlet successful  patchwork top, orangish  trousers and bluish  beanie hit, sat connected  the level  of the Ashton Hall stage
Ian McKellen arsenic Hamlet. Photograph: Devin de Vil

McKellen, arsenic you would expect, gives the portion the afloat orotund treatment, his echoing dependable carrying the value of morose aged age, alternatively than impetuous youth, portion a floppy-haired Christensen writhes astir the large thrust stage. Good connected him for continuing to dainty the fringe arsenic a spot for experiment, but this is boil-in-the-bag Shakespeare with each the nutrients sucked out.

Aside from McKellen’s speeches, the rest, arsenic we should person predicted, is silence. The ample Schaufuss institution does the full happening successful mime, each emotion signalled, each motion underscored. You get the high-contrast crippled points, but nary of the textual subtlety and nary consciousness of wherefore specified a pantomimic mentation should beryllium told.

Entirely lacking successful wit (and I see a bouncing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern successful that), it has an aesthetic consecutive retired of the 1950s – each doublet and hose, brooding poses and bombastic score. The chorus trots astir with folderol enthusiasm portion the solos, with their flowing arms, precocious kicks and billowing skirts, could person been lifted from a Kate Bush video. The closing combat is refreshingly dynamic, but it comes excessively precocious to offset the enterprise’s crassness.

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