It’s hard to hear ‘to be or not to be’ without feeling instantly transported.

Whilst first penned in 1603 by a little guy called William Shakespeare, Hamlet is a tale that never fails to resonate with an audience, and visually, Brett Dean’s rendition is truly an experience. Detailing the decent into madness experienced by the prince of the Danish throne after his father’s murder and mother’s hasty marriage, Hamlet touches on love, loss, and how we perceive our own experiences.

So it’s light watching.

Hailing from the Glyndebourne Festival in the United Kingdom, this modern Opera gave a unique twist befitting the Adelaide Festival to a tale so many of its audience knew and loved. Retaining many of the same prose from the original play, but using the music of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and key Opera singers such as Allan Clayton (Hamlet), Rod Gilfry (Claudius), Loring Gore (Ophelia) and Cheryl Barker (Gertrude), to set the dismal scene of the acts to follow, it was a show that will polarise during its stint in Adelaide.

The opening scene fell upon the banquet for the wedding of Claudius and Gertrude, with a lone Hamlet centre stage grasping at his face, expressing his inner torment. Playfully moving around the stage and onto the tables feet between wine glasses, Allan Clayton made full use of the space and showed that he is a powerhouse actor. The chorus were at all sides, still and silent at first before breaking into song. Their omnipresent nature saw them singing from the wings, from the boxes up above the audience, and brought the feeling of unease whenever they opened their mouths.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern played by Rupert Enticknap and Christopher Lowrey respectively, offered comic relief from the harsh storyline, and were a welcome addition to any scene, almost poking fun at the opera itself as they repeated back lines and over-did gestures.

The ultimate demise of many key characters were done with taste and raw emotion, and Cheryl Barker was a true standout in many of her more confronting scenes.

Ultimately, Brett Dean’s Hamlet is a world away from the original play, yet retains its air of darkness and futility, highlighted by the talent of the opera players and the ASO.

Adelaide Festival review by Robyn Clifford

For info and tickets to Hamlet head to https://www.adelaidefestival.com.au/2018/hamlet