Elsinore in Denmark. The King has recently died. His brother, Claudius, has very quickly married the widowed Queen, Gertrude, and acceded to the throne in place of his nephew, Prince Hamlet.
Hamlet is deeply unhappy with his mother’s new marriage – which, at the time, was considered incestuous – but he is enraged when he is visited by the Ghost of his father who reveals that he was murdered by Claudius. Hamlet vows revenge, but tells no-one of the Ghost’s revelation.
Meanwhile, the new King’s chief minister, Polonius, discovers that Hamlet has been making love to his daughter, Ophelia. He orders her to end the relationship, on the grounds that the young Prince can have no serious intentions towards her and intends to ‘ruin’ her. However, when Hamlet appears profoundly distressed by this, Polonius concludes that he has gone mad from unrequited love.
Claudius and Gertrude ask two old schoolfriends of Hamlet’s – Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – to stay in Elsinore, to report on Hamlet’s mood, and find means to entertain him. They invite a company of Actors to the Court, and Hamlet asks them to perform a scene which mirrors the murder of his father, so that he can gauge Claudius’ reaction and be sure that the Ghost was telling the truth, and was not a devil in disguise.
Claudius storms out of the performance, and Hamlet believes that the Ghost’s accusation is proved. He has the chance to kill Claudius the same night whilst he is at prayer, but decides to delay it, as he wishes to send a guilty Claudius to Hell, not a repentant one to Heaven. He confronts his mother, accusing her of complicity in his father’s murder, and impulsively kills the eavesdropping Polonius, assuming the figure hidden behind a curtain to be Claudius.
Claudius sends Hamlet away to England, in the company of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, who carry an order to the English king to put Hamlet to death. Hamlet discovers the warrant, puts Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s names on it in place of his own, and returns to Elsinore, where he finds that Ophelia has gone mad and been drowned in a river.
Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, blames Hamlet for the death of both his father and his sister, and is persuaded by Claudius to kill Hamlet in a rigged fencing match. Hamlet accepts the challenge. Claudius prepares a poisoned wine, as a back-up.
They fight at first with ‘bated’ (blunt-tipped) swords, but whilst Hamlet is distracted by his mother, Laertes swaps his bated sword for an unbated one, tipped with poison, and wounds Hamlet. Hamlet manages to swap swords and kill Laertes. Gertude drinks Claudius’ wine and is poisoned. Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and makes him drink the wine. Claudius dies, and then Hamlet.
Fortinbras of Norway arrives amid the carnage and assumes power in Denmark.
Christopher Bianchi Ghost,1st Player/King King of France
Ian Barritt Polonius Lafew
Alan Coveney Horatio The Interpreter
Paul Currier Claudius Parolles
Craig Fuller Guildenstern Bertram
Nicky Goldie Sexton Widow Capilet
Julia Hills Gertrude Countess Rossillion
Joel Macey Rosencrantz Lord & Soldier
Alan Mahon Hamlet Charles Dumain
Isabella Marshall Ophelia Diana
Callum McIntyre Laertes Pierre Dumain
Marc Geoffrey Reynaldo Lavatch
John Sandeman Marcellus & Priest Duke of Florence
Laurence Varda Barnardo/Player/Fortinbras Lord & Soldier
Eleanor Yates Player Queen Helena