Review of Hamlet at Cothay Manor.

AT the beautiful Cothay Manor the all-male Festival Players presented a remarkable Hamlet; crisp, pacey and exciting.

Director Michael Dyers’s production team ensure that each performance sounds wonderful and looks authentic; Musical Director Johnny Coppin’s songs; Frances Holt’s costumes; John Greenwood’s fight direction and Trish Knight-Webb’s voice training ensure professional performances.

Speedy costume changes and versatility abound. Lee Peck is a sparky Horatio, then regal, troubled Gertrude. She and Ophelia (beautifully acted by Jonny James-Jones) are fully realised. Jonny then plays Rosencrantz; like Joel Daffurn’s Guildenstern, first genial, until they spy on their erstwhile friend and the smiles fade. Joel’s outstanding gift for comedy serves the part of First Player well; he and the equally funny Paul Mills up-stage each other shamelessly - making the play-within-a-play a welcome relief from the unfolding tragedy.

Mark Spriggs impresses as Claudius. We see an affable, pragmatic man; dodgy but likeable enough until his hail-fellow-well-met mask slips, revealing a murderous lust for power. Formidable.

As Hamlet Benjamin Way masters every shade of fluctuating sanity. His performance is exceptional. His brooding presence, sardonic wit and extreme emotions held my attention throughout.

More local performances offer every chance to catch this lucid, thought-provoking and powerful production.

Avril Silk.