When Hamlet finishes, nearly everyone is dead. The rest, it is said, is silence.
Not according to Hostry Festival director Stash Kirkbride, who together with Peter Beck has resurrected those dead old Danes for a new play; even Yorick makes a comeback.
Tom Harper is a consistently torn eponymous hero, while Beck takes on the role of his uncle-father Claudius. Both give strong performances in this strange half-life of a play.
The show is preceded by Prologue, a physical retelling of Hamlet by Total Ensemble; a lively and creative condensation of the tragedy from a troupe of wildly mixed abilities.
The rest of the play is something of an extension however: an over-long unpacking of words that loses the name of action. We are presented again with each character — including Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, with a coin-tossing nod to Stoppard — as they deal with some sort of purgatory.
New details of their past lives emerge — Rebecca Chapman’s distraught weeping Gertrude and David Newham’s arrogant and majestic old Hamlet particularly — but despite that the characters themselves shift little.
There are pleasant comic turns, including Peter Barrow as Yorick, but we also have a great deal of earnest words. It is an interesting exercise, but difficult to tell on one view how well it adds to the canon.