The Three Inch Fools are touring the UK this summer with an exciting Shakespearean duo of performances in Hamlet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In their production of Hamlet at Lauriston Castle, the company do a very good job of keeping the audience entertained in the outdoors on a classic, dreich Scottish evening.
Taking on one of Shakespeare’s best known works is courageous, and the troupe pull it off with panache and grace. Brothers Stephen and James Hyde have opted for gender blind casting, which proves to be a success, especially with Rose Reade in the titular role. As the disturbed and upset Crown Prince, Reade is so convincing as Hamlet that it’s as if the Dane were her own alter ego. Her rendition of some of the most well-known verses in the English language is commendable. The audience is rooting for Hamlet and his right to justice as soon as we first encounter him. She also portrays significant skill as she plays the accordion, violin and demonstrates her vocal prowess.
The supporting actors come together as a well-knit unit, using minimal props to allow all the focus to gravitate toward the dialogue and acting. Of the supporting set, Hamlet’s recently widowed and soon remarried mother, Gertrude, stands out. That said, the cast work together excellently on what is a very small stage, and their quick costume changes and end-of-scene movements are flawless, especially given the five of them are frequently on stage all at once. Great credit has to go to Lucy Cullingford for her input here.
The cast do miss a beat or two, however, when it comes to the open space. Working in such an environment can be tricky, and at times the actors need to be more mindful of which way they face; if they favour one side over another, they risk blocking off a part of the audience, which happens on occasion. At times the music also lets the tight performance lose its cohesiveness, for familiar Punjabi and Spanish tracks were played without rhyme or reason (other than for mild humour).
Yet, despite the minor glitches, The Three Inch Fools are worth catching this summer as they tour the UK. The great line-up of venues on offer allows them to continue performing Shakespeare befittingly as travelling minstrels. Their appearance nearby offers a promise of a great evening out!