Bedlam's Hamlet. Simple equation. One Shakespeare. Four actors. Many characters. I was so ready to see how they'd do Hamlet with only four characters. I noticed from the beginning that nothing seemed too elaborate. The costumes were plain, but certain main characters had set items they wore, like Horatio had a hat. The set was very simple: a few tarps, lights, chairs, some projections, and what do you know you have a set for Hamlet. The seating was more interesting, the audience could choose where we wanted to sit and move to different areas during the intermissions.
The actors changed characters rather quickly. I was drawn into this because, truthfully, I wasn't expecting to be able to clearly tell all the characters apart. For me they were so distinguished, that at any point in time I could say which actor was portraying which role. My mind was blown and I really wanted to know more. The fact that the show was so contained, nothing extra, helped me settle into it. I wasn't focusing on unnecessary things and I wasn't distracted. I'd honestly thought I was going to be lost. I was wrong.
There was also some humor brought to the show from the decision to only have four actors play so many roles. Some scenes required more than the four characters, so the actors had to change moment by moment. The thing that got me was that it was often obvious it was the same actor. They didn't go to extreme lengths to differ characters visually. Two of the characters, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, both were played by three of the actors in the period of one scene. For example, one actor would pop up to speak as the Queen or Laertes, and immediately be replaced by another actor. I laughed at these moments because the change was so sudden but it kept me awake and watching.
By the end of the show, I was inspired as a young person and young artist. I saw that the amount of characters or amount of actors playing them could also be used as a tool. As a playwright, it made me think about risks outside of writing, like casting and working with by someone who isn't me with a separate artistic vision. I mean, I bet Shakespeare didn't picture Hamlet being done with 4 actors.