Hamlet, perhaps William Shakespeare’s most renowned play, comes to life at the Denver Center this month. The show, directed by Kent Thompson, will run from Jan. 24 to Feb. 23 in the Stage Theater.
Hamlet tells the tale of young scholar Hamlet who finds himself trapped in an impossible dilemma after his father, the king of Denmark, dies. Naturally, the ghost of his father returns, claiming that his death was no mere accident. The ghost tells Hamlet that the Claudius, the new king who also happens to be Hamlet’s uncle and the ghost’s brother, murdered him and tasks Hamlet with avenging his untimely death. Hamlet then must rationalize the ghost’s tale with reality to discern if the new king, who is also his new stepfather, did in fact steal the throne. Chaos ensues as Hamlet delays his revenge, even going so far as to feign madness in an attempt to uncover the truth.
While the themes of the majority of Shakespeare’s other works can be defined by a single word, no single theme defines Hamlet. Does it explore madness, the dangers of indecisiveness, the perils of being a philosopher king in a soldier king’s world? Perhaps it explores all three. What makes Hamlet transcendent and widely known is its ability to fully develop multiple themes and still read as a cohesive piece of literature.
In and of itself, Hamlet commands respect and attention, but Thompson’s distinct twist on the classic makes this specific production a must-see. The austere stage, painted in red and black and filled with three levels of balconies reinforced with metal rods, evokes the unsettling feeling that Thompson aims for. At its core, Hamlet is a tragedy—no good comes from Hamlet’s indecisiveness or feigned madness—so the addition of an austerely haunting set adds to the misfortune that unfolds on stage.
For those who studied Hamlet or one of Shakespeare’s countless other plays during high school, viewing the classic onstage as it was meant to be experienced provides a unique insight into the play. When reading a work meant to be viewed, the essence of certain lines can be lost. It can be hard to discern what is happening when reading scenes meant to be acted. However, when viewed onstage, each line takes on new life. Body language and inflection provide a deeper meaning and understanding of the text and the themes that develop throughout the play.
Hamlet ‘s intricate plot of revenge, murder and madness coupled with this production’s unique spin on the haunting aspect of the classic play makes it a must see.