Big Finish have taken a turn for the theatrical with a brilliant production of Shakespeare’s greatest play, Hamlet. Make no bones about it, this will be the recording teachers recommend students listen to when they study it. This is the first in a series of Shakespeare plays that Big Finish will be producing (the next being King Lear) and continues an ever-growing and impressive range of classics being released by the production company.
Shakespeare’s revenge tragedy needs little introduction but where this production succeeds over other audio productions is that this has been designed as an original audio production and is not merely an audio souvenir of a theatrical production. To that end, director Scott Hancock has assembled a cast of Big Finish regulars to bring the tale to life.
In the title role, Alexander Vlahoss comes across as a younger Hamlet than you would expect but the youthful nature plays well whether it’s brooding through his many soliloquies (his “To be or not to be” soliloquy is a particular highlight) or feigning madness. His performance is mesmerising from start from to finish. As Claudius and Gertrude, both Miles Richardson and Tracey Childs deliver strong performances without going over the top. Terry Molloy as Polonius is suitably old and blustery whilst showing great affection for his children, especially his daughter Ophelia (played with great depth by Diedre Mullins). The remainder of the cast deliver astoundingly well-rounded performances.
Hancock also creates an audio delight for listeners by using the sound design skills of Neil Gardner and a wonderfully atmospheric score by James Dunlop. The production crackles along and does not let itself get too bogged down with some 45 minutes of Shakespeare’s original 4-hour text excised. This may bother some fans of the play but in the context of the whole production, it works exceptionally well.
As a bonus, there is a roundtable discussion that serves as a behind-the-scenes extra and a ‘coming soon’ trailer for King Lear.
This is a performance to savour time and time again.
Reviewed by Rodney Hrvatin
Rating out of 10: 10
Released by: Big Finish Productions
Release date: August 2017
RRP: $28 CD, $15 Digital Download