With fine performances all round, Dramsoc provided an excellent treatment of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, writes Maria Whelan

If the production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is indicative of what is in store for UCD Dramsoc in 2011, we have every reason to expect great things. For five consecutive years, an annual Leaving Certificate show has been performed by the society. Not only is this new legacy an opportune time for Dramsoc’s most enthusiastic members to take the stage, Leaving Cert students equally benefit as the committee are able to deliver an inspiring and memorable performance in preparation for the students’ exams.

Shakespeare’s tragic hero is portrayed admirably by Gavin Drea, who before our very eyes metamorphoses from a doleful, inactive young man to one that is able to stare death in the face, not caring whether he lives or dies, so long as his honour remains intact and his father avenged.

Hamlet’s constant confusion, procrastination and altering of his strategy contrasts greatly with the character of Claudius (Paul Fleming). Fleming’s consistently evil persona is a perfect foil to Hamlet’s instability and reluctance. The persistent bickering of the two male leads is gently balanced by the soothing presence of Hamlet’s love interest Ophelia (Amanda Coakley). However, some might say that her stage chemistry with Laertes (Ian Toner) was much more powerful.

Undoubtedly, the cast and crew were in good hands. Director Stephen Jones is an acclaimed Dramsoc alumnus with six ISDA awards to his name. His choice of cast was noteworthy, as there were certainly no ham actors in this production. The cast of 19 delivered such a tight and convincing performance that it was obvious hard work had gone into the production.

The Dramsoc committee evidently was mindful of the fact many Leaving Cert students would attend the show; therefore great lengths were taken to make the production relevant and applicable to the intended audience. Consequently, shattering the widely held opinion that all good Shakespearian dramas entail men wearing tights, the cast was of mixed gender and the time setting is modern day, which proves to be an interesting choice.

Additionally, the stage set was modern, fresh, and stylish, proving Shakespeare’s work is timeless. The colour scheme of the mise-en-scène was minimalistic and sombre, incorporating blacks, grays, browns, white, and red. The colour palette and large pictures of Denmark’s rulers candidly adhered to the totalitarian state ruled by the ruthless King Claudius.

Often it is easy to get caught up in the intensity of the dialogue, the striking set complemented the performance. Indubitably, Hamlet’s motives were to “catch the conscience of the king,” but Dramsoc wanted nothing more than to catch our attention and minds.