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The Small Concert Room in St. George’s Hall, Liverpool
August 11 – August 23, 2009

Director: Max Rubin
Producer: Lode Star Theatre Company
Cast Includes: Stephen Fletcher, Ruth Alexander, Renny Krupinski, Liam Tobin, Ian Hayles, Grace Menary, Paul Moorcroft, Tom Latham, Richard Kelly, Simon Hedger.

Running Time: 2hrs 40 mins

Stephen Fletcher - Hamlet

The Liverpool Shakespear Festival 2009

Setting one of The Bard’s most popular plays in mid-war, near contemporary setting might appear to some to be a little risky. Yet for this production of Hamlet, which forms one half of this year’s Liverpool Shakespeare Festival, the choice works remarkably well and serves to emphasise the timelessness of the story, the exquisiteness of the writing and the verve and vigour required to carry the whole thing off.

With the old King Hamlet poisoned, the way is open for his brother, Claudius, to marry the widowed Queen Gertrude and so take command of Denmark’s dominions. However,  when his cruel plot is uncovered by the rightful heir to the throne following a visitation from the dead king,  young Prince Hamlet plots retribution and sets in motion a battle of wills forged by revenge and tempered by mistrust and ignominy.


Every actor feels born to play The Prince Of Denmark and Stephen Fletcher must be pleased at his decision to take the role on. Filled with wit and guile, anger, madness and not a little venom, Fletcher’s representation of the vengeful Prince is one to savour as he prowls the gloriously adorned, semi-circular space with gusto and further enhances his reputation to take any part and make it his own.

Superb too is Ruth Alexander as Gertrude, whose performance is filled with equal measures of self-serving “love” for her new husband that is soon offset by manners of supreme indifference before finally being topped off by despair when told of the full extent of his actions in order to seize the throne.

Ian Hayles’s Polonius holds just the right amount of bluff and bluster that the part demands, whereas Tom Latham’s Horatio is equally as notable in delivering a performance that slightly exceeds, possibly, what the author intended with regards to charm.

Yet is Liam Tobin’s triple-handed roles as Old Hamlet for its powerful representation, First Player in its delicious tone and delivery and, most notably perhaps, as The First Grave Digger for its warmth, humour and ignorance of feeling that must take the plaudits overall. Tobin’s is a textbook copy of how all three parts should be played and takes the production to new heights.

Yes there were problems. The acoustics in the hall where Dickens once read aloud are not best served when the company have their backs to the audience, as an echo renders some of the dialogue incomprehensible, especially as much of it is delivered at speed. Yet this complaint is more than adequately set right by the action, the pure dynamism of the story and an engaging fight scene superbly choreographed by Renny Krupinski, who also plays Claudius with a certain amount of mid-war spiv that at once enthrals and repulses in equal measure.

To go or not to go, that is the question.  On the evidence of the performances here then the answer is without doubt in the affirmative and Lode Star should be congratulated wholeheartedly on their achievement. 

Chris High

The Liverpool Shakespeare Festival continues with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead by Tom Stoppard at the Novas Contemporary Urban Centre, Liverpool, from September 1 – September 13. For more information:  0151 324 4780 or



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“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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