The Bard’s best on stage in Perth

The Pop-Up Globe brings Shakespeare’s best to Perth in standout opening night performances

Murder most foul, revenge most dark and sorrow most deep. Shakespeare’s classic tragedy hit the stage at the Pop-Up Globe for a thrilling opening night of Hamlet.

Hamlet was the second of four opening nights for the Globe, with romantic comedy Twelfth Night opening the season the evening before (October 9).

The set up of the Globe itself established the mood even before the actors tread the boards. Whether you amongst the “groundlings” in front of the stage or in the seats within its three levels, you’re hearing and seeing Shakespeare in its intended setting. Musicians with pipes, violins and mandolin further put you in that classic Shakespearean feel as you enter and set the tone throughout the play. Despite the classic set-up, the production exploits modern special effects, including smoke slowly spreading across the stage to transport you to the troubled state of Denmark.

In the dead of night and a dense fog, two nervous watchmen and Horatio, loyal servant to Prince Hamlet, witness the ghost of the recently dead King. Hamlet still mourns his father, even as his Uncle Claudius is crowned after marrying his mother, Queen Gertrude. Horatio reports the spectral sighting to Hamlet who races to see it for himself. Up on the dark ramparts of the castle, Hamlet faces his father’s spirit who urges him to avenge his murder by Claudius and sets in motion one of Shakespeare’s most poignant tales.

Doing justice to one of the most famous plays in English literature is no mean feat, but the cast really accomplish that and more. It explores love, revenge, regret, depression and the nature of mortality in a personal and emotional way. The audience was transfixed by the conflicting emotions of Hamlet, whether it was the famous “To be or not to be” speech or Hamlet pondering mortality with the skull of the jester Yorrick, the performance really hit upon the emotional depths of the story and shows just why it has stood the test of time.

It also explored the depth of each character, with the scheming Claudius moving from pondering whether he was capable of redemption as he still wears the crown, to his tumultuous of rage at the murder of his councillor Polonius and his manipulation of the grieving son Laertes. Another positive of the production was the vibrancy of the costumes with the Danish Royal family in brilliant and embroidered clothes adding again to the production value. While not all the parts are in Renaissance style costumes, the key players are and as such really shine through.

For all the drama and tragedy of the play, the Pop-Up production includes plenty of humour, both through content of the original play, particularly in Hamlet’s school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as well as additional jokes inserted in this production. At many points the audience were in stitches, with the humorous acting troupe and the raucous gravedigger in stand-out moments.

While the play is performed in the original Shakespearean language, first-time goers to such a production shouldn’t be worried about following the action. Its funny how quickly the mind catches on and even then, the acting itself makes the plot very easy to follow and become immersed in. Actors still slip into modern language for much of the one-liner humour and make more than a few modern references for laughs.

The Pop-Up Globe will also be performing Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Measure for Measure and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for six weeks in Perth until November 24.

For more information visit popupglobe.com.au and for tickets go to Ticketmaster.

David Charlesworth

Hi I’m David! I love diving into books, video games and films as much as I love cooking up snacks to accompany them. Whether its genres, cuisine or hiking trails, I’m passionate about exploring and experiencing new things. I’ve spent the last couple years bouncing around regional WA as a journalist, now I’m back in the city and excited to share what Perth’s got in store!