Review of "Hamlet" at the Stratford Festival

Last week I reviewed Pericles, the first Shakespeare play of my Stratford Festival season. Today I'm turning my attention towards their production of Hamlet. 

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a particularly critical person and am not always good at analyzing or articulating my reaction to a show. At the intermission of Hamlet I was wondering vaguely what was wrong with me, as the show I had seen was doing everything right (as far as I could tell) and yet somehow was not pulling me in. I still don't know why that was, but I do know that the second act redeemed all that.

Confession: I've had an actor-crush on Jonathan Goad ever since I saw him as Hotspur in Henry IV, part 1 at the Stratford Festival many years ago. Like all Hotspurs, he had a manic energy and dangerous edge, but he also had the charisma and competency that many Hotspurs seem to lack - all qualities that he also brought to his Hamlet.

Again, as is usual at Stratford, the supporting cast members were all uniformly excellent. I particularly enjoyed Geraint Wyn Davies's Claudius, whose brief moments of villainous plotting were all the more alarming for how charming and reasonable he seemed most of the time, and for Adrienne Gould's mad scene as Ophelia, which definitely ranks as one of the more unsettling ones that I've seen.

When you inject this much energy into a production, it is sometimes possible for things to get lost in the hustle and bustle. It is to director Antoni Cimolino's credit that this Hamlet, despite being physically lively and fast-paced, is also accessible, comprehensible, and, most importantly, entertaining.