Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

03/10/2013 - 12/10/2013

Production Details

Galatea Theatre is bringing the first professional production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet to Auckland City in more than a decade.

The bard’s brilliant dark tragedy stars Calum Gittins as Hamlet, an actor with NZ acting pedigree. Calum’s father, award winning actor Paul Gittins, played the same role years ago, and his mother is Lord of the Rings movie trilogy co-writer Phillipa Boyens. 

Shortland St fans will recognise Calum as Jake Valentine, but Shakespeare fans will have last seen him in King Lear, at this year’s Auckland University Outdoor Shakespeare.  Calum’s movie credits include the acclaimed The King’s Speech, & working opposite Viggo Mortensen in The Two Towers

Galatea Theatre (Gina Timberlake & Geoff Allen) is one of the longest surviving independent professional companies in Auckland. Galatea combines with renowned West Auckland director and actor, John Goudge. The relationship was born when Goudge played Vincent Van Gogh in Galatea’s hit show, Mrs Van Gogh, which was named as one of the plays of 2012 by the NZ Herald. 

“Bringing Shakespeare to life requires passion and energy, and these guys have got it in spades,” Goudge says. “Combine that with one of the best scripts ever known, and you’ve got the recipe for something very special.” 

Hamlet promises to be a gritty production, with Tracey Van Lent’s stark design set in an icy North, akin to Game of Thrones

Producer Geoff Allen is a stalwart of independent professional theatre in Auckland, and director of the upcoming AU Summer Shakespeare in 2014.

Galatea Theatre presents: 
Hamlet, by William Shakespeare
Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre
3 – 12 October, 7.30PM
Sun 6 Oct & Sat 12 Oct, 2pm 
Book: 09 308 2383

CAST: Calum Gittins – Wayne Coreham – Anna Stillaman – Terry Hooper – Indigo Paul – Alex MacDonald – Stuart Shacklock – Regan Crummer – Ian Harvey – Mike Borgfeldt – Mark Huston – Venetia Verner – Brendan Lovell.  

Designer: Tracey Van Lent
Producer Geoff Allen

The Red Tragedy

Review by Matt Baker 05th Oct 2013

The problem with Hamlet as a play is that it treats character over plot. The success of Galatea Theatre’s production, therefore, is the casting of Calum Gittins as the titular Dane. Asides from his remarkable technique, Gittins’ performance is packed with pathos, giving full colour to the extreme range of Hamlet’s capricious nature. This is by no means an easy feat. Hamlet’s complexities arise from subconscious desire, something which cannot be played, so, instead, Gittins delivers each soliloquy as part of a mental process, an untangling of intangible ideas. The result is a series of deeply poignant moments, reflecting on matters ranging from existentialism to his own mortality, tied together with an ironically clear through line of action.

Gittins is also safely anchored by his three parental players, with Wayne Coreham brilliantly playing against the typical villainous of Claudius, giving us a portrayal of a man truly burdened and on an emotional par with Hamlet. Ian Harvey expertly balances the role of the specifically titled Ghost of Hamlet’s Father, allowing his mortal emotions to break through his haunting vocals, while Anna Stillaman as Gertrude is torn between the two, her emotional fragility bubbling beneath her stoic façade. [More]


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Dark and pithy tragic tale tackled with integrity

Review by Nik Smythe 04th Oct 2013

How does one freshly produce the world’s most-produced play, not to mention Shakespeare’s longest?  Galatea’s production doesn’t exactly stretch the boundaries of originality in concept but, as theatrephiles are want to quote out of context, “the play’s the thing”. 

Director John Goudge acquits himself and his cast nicely in a wholly traditional, solidly performed melodrama shortened to a mere three hours or so.

The dark visual design of Tracey van Lent shows a clear passion for the dark-age stylings popularised most recently by Game of Thrones.  Multiple-level platforms connected by stairs and ladders create a versatile framework to serve each scene, be it interior or exterior, civilization or wilderness.  The ice and snow-frosted rear backdrop and side walls place us in the story’s Northern Europe location. 

Head costume-designer Lynn Cottingham expands the medieval motif exponentially, outfitting many of the cast in sturdy leathers, furs and glinting metal.  Hamlet himself is entirely in black, while the rest of the royal contingent display more degrees of elegance.  The overall look with the set, props and costumes combined, enhanced by Beren Allen’s often sparse lighting that makes as much use of shadow as of light, is impressive.

Callum Gittins is worthily cast in the title role of the young, would-be romantic, crushed idealist-cum-twisted cynic.  A great deal of charisma is required to maintain any compelling aspect to the grieving prince without becoming enervating, or laughably maudlin and Gittins’ wholly conventional portrayal effectively drives the heart of the play.  

Wayne Coreham’s Claudius is also pitched very well, exuding an magnanimous air betraying a hint of gentle malice during the first couple of acts, then subtly increasing in tension as his plans are thwarted but never losing his cool or admitting to his sins, not even to save the life of his own beloved wife, or his own for that matter. 

Anna Stillaman is an attractive, forthright Queen Gertrude, the kind of woman one respects as an authority figure, yet contrarily feels the need to protect from the brutality of certain truths – as indeed Hamlet is instructed to do by his late father’s ghost, in a thunderously majestic, haunting turn from Ian Harvey.

Terry Hooper plays a smooth-skulled, stately Polonius whose slightly skittish persona has him booming officiously one moment, and scrambling anxiously the next. 

Indigo Paul’s sweet depiction of a diminutive, wistful Ophelia has a quiet appeal that again successfully shuns the pitfalls of pretension or excessive histrionics.  One could almost say the same of Alex McDonald as her loyal brother Laertes, albeit contrasting Ophelia’s passivity with an honour-bound willingness to take arms against those who wrong him. 

As Hamlet’s confidante Horatio, Mark Huston gives us a convincing (and necessarily) earnest straight man, not directly attached to the compounding tragedy, and thus not tainted by the madness of grief as Hamlet and Ophelia are. 

Rosencrantz (Stuart Shacklock) and Guildenstern (Regan Crummer) have the trademark superior air of well-educated aristocrats who never display any kind of actual skill as such.  There must be a temptation to play them as a comedy double act – in fact it crosses my mind Crummer and Shacklock could make for a passable Laurel and Hardy, but again they play it straight, respectfully serving the narrative. 

In fact, the only characters played with a clear comic intent are Brendan Lovell’s gravedigger, whose morbid brevity and relentless thickness are nicely overplayed, and Mike Borgfeldt’s broadly camp Osric, the only characterisation I find distractingly gratuitous.  

The morosely intense compositions of Joy Division speak more to the known content of the play than to the medieval style production design, but despite the anachronism it’s hard to conceive of a more apt score.  Admittedly it helps to know the history of the band’s uniquely melancholic frontman who at the height of alternative music acclaim made his own decision regarding whether to be, or not. 

Perfectly appointed as the soundtrack is, it does at times feel unnecessary, as though making the most of the fact they have permission to use the music, for the sake of it. 

Generally speaking, the action moves forward in good stride, the pace only occasionally flagging in certain scenes as the driving intention seems to lose its focus momentarily.  Played safe and straight with confidence and strength, I commend the company’s sterling effort in tackling the notorious breadth and complexity of this dark and pithy, tragic tale. 


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