Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Probably the world’s most famous play. A powerful story of revenge, treachery and madness. Not for the faint-hearted. And definitely not one regularly selected for the amateur circuit.

But Vision Theatre Company is nothing if not unafraid of a challenge - and, without doubt, its production of the Bard’s classic, was a triumph.

VTC’s metier is to examine closely each character’s motivations and personality, before ever embarking on rehearsing the actual lines - this approach pays dividends, with each and every character totally inhabiting their roles.

The play was beautifully performed with inspired direction, set in modern times, but losing none of its traditional values - with the eponymous protagonist particularly commanding the stage and driving the narrative forward at a rapier-sharp pace.

Gethin Morris drew every ounce of anger and rage out of the despair the Danish prince experiences at the untimely death of his father - directing it squarely at his uncle Claudius (Roger Leese) who then takes the throne - and equally so at his marvellously Machiavellian mother Gertrude (Michaela Walters). His descent into madness was truly distressing. At turns furious, confused and just plain nasty, his performance was a genuine tour-de-force.

Director Arron Evans, who also played the unfortunate, but sneaky, Polonius, conceived a fresh take on this standard - introducing technology to bring a Dystopian edge to the production. Not only was the audience fully immersed in the production but the claustrophobic atmosphere created by a Big-Brother-is-Watching-You vibe meant even the auditorium felt part of the plot.

Credit must go to Assistant Director Ethan Clancy and Tech Wizard Rhys Williams, both alumni of Vision Youth Theatre, for their part in the design and execution of the audio-visual additions to the production.

Thankfully, Evans also avoided the four-hour marathon that Hamlet audiences can be subjected to (I’m thinking of you, Kenneth Branagh) showing some brutal - but wholly effective - editing skills, that distilled the action to include only its vital components - while losing none of its impact or drama.

The cuts were severe, but enhanced, rather than watered-down the narrative, driving the show forward like an action movie.

The casting was pretty traditional - Hamlet was young enough to be a credible student, the King and Queen looked the part, although Ophelia (Sarah Hancock) displayed a naivety and other-worldliness that meant she avoided the usual sappy, soppy portrayals of the character, and instead presented a genuinely tragic figure.

It’s a little unfair to single out cast members for praise, as - and it is always the way with VTC productions - the whole was only so good because of the sum of its parts, but adding a truly comedic counterpart to the angst and drama going on around them - Kate Ashley and Erin Thomas - have to be commended for their tiny vignette around the graveside - which proved the perfect foil for the subsequent Alas, Poor Yorick scene.

Horatio, too, (Tracy Rimell) provided a calm, level-headed antithesis to Hamlet’s rage - becoming the kind of sidekick who allows the action to move forward by being the receptacle for explanations of plot and character motivation; while Adam Edgerley as Laertes, was an inspired piece of casting, He morphs from lounge lizard to avenging angel in a heartbeat; adding some genuine, credible emotional heft to the show.

Other members of the cast worthy of note were: Tom Wears (Rosencrantz); Katie (Guildenstern) and Lee Thomas (Francisco).

Hamlet was performed by Vision Theatre Company at Boulevard Theatre, Milford Haven on May 9-11, 2024.