Amy Leach has had a big task on her hands in directing Hamlet at Leeds Playhouse. The decision to cast Tessa Parr in the lead role as the Princess of Denmark was always going to be a risky one. The big cast includes the full Leeds Playhouse Ensemble Company as well as a company of 14 young people from the Leeds City Region.
Hamlet is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays. The grief-stricken Hamlet returns from university and enters a world filled with deceit, betrayal and heartache. Can Hamlet avenge her father’s murder… and at what cost?
Some of the biggest arts publications went along to the press night to share their views…
The Guardian gave the production an impressive four stars, with the first line of the review stating “It’s rare, but thrilling, when Shakespeare’s lines sound brand new.” I totally understand what they mean, and I believe it’s Amy Leach’s clear direction and creative understanding of Shakespeare that makes these productions so special to watch. There is also plenty of praise for Tessa Parr’s performance. The Yorkshire Post also gives the “pacy, energetic and totally engaging production” a 4 stars out of 5.
York Press also gives a fine review of the show, praising Hayley Grindle’s design: “a wall of wilting flowers and candles and a dark, sinister backdrop.”
One of my main questions was how long the show was going to be. The Reviews Hub reassures potential audiences, “This radically cut-down, easily digestible version of Shakespeare’s masterpiece places story first and foremost and injects a pace that can very often be the death knell of a full production.” Many reviewers praise the production’s simple, stripped-back intimacy that adds to the pace and intensity of the show.
Entertainment Focus gives the most detailed review of the cast performances, with praise all round, particularly for the “intensely likeable” Tessa Parr as Hamlet.
The show had undoubtedly been a total success across the board, from exceptional set design to clever and unusual direction. If you’re going to see Hamlet, let it be this production.
Hamlet plays in Leeds Playhouse’s Pop-Up theatre, in association with SOYO Leeds, from 1st – 30th March.
Photography credited to David Lindsay