review by Judith Proctor
The video is longer than I'd expected which was a pleasant surprise. From hearing Gareth talking about it, I'd expected more of an edited highlights version of the play, but in fact, though this is trimmed down, it still runs for nearly two hours.
It's a mixed bag. Most of the acting is good, some of it is excellent. The scenery could be better, but then this isn't a Hollywood production - it's aimed mainly at the school's market and bearing that level of budget in mind, it doesn't do too badly at all. The echoey wooden floor in the palace was a bit disconcerting, but you got used to it.
The picture quality varies too. Some of the indoor scenes are a little bit grainy and I didn't like the way they did the ghost at all.
However, onto the good bits. Will Houston as Hamlet was superb and held the entire thing together so that you forgot the sets (could have used him on Blake's 7...). He was obsessed, insane, indecisive, and demanded that you watch him.
Gareth made a scheming, evil Claudius, but one who also genuinely loves his wife Gertrude. Gareth's skill lies in conveying a lot with a little, and it comes over very well here.
The third strongest member of the cast is Jason Harris as Horatio (slash fans will probably love his final scene with Hamlet), though Christopher Timothy provides an entertaining gravedigger.
The weakest character for me was Ophelia. Lucy Cockram failed to convince.
The dialogue was clearly-spoken by all the cast. I don't know how close to the original text it was or what bits were edited out, but there was almost nothing that I failed to understand because of archaic language. The only time I missed anything was to due the heavy overlay of church bells on the opening scene (the bells carried on much longer than was necessary to remind us that Claudius was marrying his brother's widow before said brother was two months in his grave.)
Some of the religious sensibilities of the period were nicely conveyed. I particularly liked the scene where Hamlet decided not to kill Claudius while Claudius is praying, as his soul would go to heaven and not to hell. Yet, with true irony, we know from Claudius's own words that he does not believe God has forgiven him for his crime.
Although the play has less than perfect production standards, I enjoyed it greatly and will certainly be watching my tape again. It's well worth the money and I recommed it for the performances of Will Houston and Gareth Thomas
You can order the tape from and pay by credit card for £14.99 inlcuding postage by phoning Cromwell on 01789 292779. They'll mail overseas, but that costs a few pounds extra. Ring +44 1789 29277 if overseas.
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Last updated on 05th of November 2000.