My Hamlet, Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh

Michael Coveney
Friday 27 August 2010 00:00

"Who's there?" cries Hamlet on the battlements of Elsinore, kick-starting the greatest revenge tragedy in the language. "Who's there?" cries Linda Marlowe as an old cleaning lady, sweeping up back stage.

This is as equally exciting an opening gambit as in the real thing: Marlowe's dislocated scrubber is possessed by the play, and the characters, as the ghosts of not only the dead king, but all the others, too, are manifest in the enveloping gloom.

Like John Gielgud in Peter Greenaway's Prospero's Books, Marlowe speaks all the lines, and her fevered imagination is fleshed out with a gallery of beautiful Georgian puppets, manipulated by their five black-clothed masters from Tblisi.

It's a great way of doing the play: you could argue that Hamlet sees all the others around him in the light of his own sickly vision anyway. But Marlowe adds her own signature athleticism to the event, spread-eagled over the mirror, stretched to breaking point, quivering with rage, disgust and unrequited passion.

You hardly notice that Horatio and Fortinbras are absent, or that Osric doesn't have a hat. There are dancing rodents in "The Mousetrap" play to catch the conscience of a king; a heart-breaking Ophelia, strewn with flowers; and an imperious Gertrude with the profile of Princess Anne.

All over inside an hour, but you don't feel short-changed. You have been through the mill because Marlowe has, too, summoning spirits by daubing on face paint and submitting to that cry in the dark.

To 29 August (0131 623 3030)

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