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Every actor asked to play Hamlet must be both thrilled and terrified ‘ it is the most challenging role in the English language but the best vehicle to display acting skill.

And while Brendan Cowell has not created a memorable performance in Bell Shakespeare’s Hamlet, he certainly gave it a good shot.

Cowell delivers a very contemporary Hamlet with a brooding and mercurial intensity that bears a striking resemblance to a younger Russell Crowe, both in appearance and in angst-stricken diffidence.

Directed by Bell Shakespeare associate director Marion Potts, this production places the focus firmly on Hamlet’s descent from grief to anguish and finally madness as he strives to revenge his murdered father.

Is Hamlet a tragic prince driven to madness or a vacillating, scheming rebellious young man faking it’

At the end of this production, you may not care. This is not a sympathetic character but an almost malevolent isolated Hamlet whose only credible human bond is with Horatio (Joe Manning). Colin Moody’s Claudius is a more human, if amoral, presence as the wicked uncle who murders his brother to usurp the throne and marry the queen.

Heather Mitchell’s Gertrude is a well-dressed socialite; Barry Otto was an apt choice for windbag Polonius and Ophelia (Laura Brent) establishes her suffering in her final scenes. Matthew Whittett gave Guildenstern a human touch as the goofy and unwittingly treacherous friend.

Composer Sarah Blasko made her theatre debut with this production delivering an interesting musical score, often performed live on stage.

This is a solid production, although the action slows somewhat in the second half and the delivery is at times too soft, especially during some of the most significant soliloquies.

Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House
June 6 – July 12
Tickets: $50-$60, 9250 7111 or