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Hamlet, Lion & Unicorn Theatre – Review

William Shakespeare

Directed by Kat Wootton
Pros: A wonderful twist on a famous classic. This is a great idea that is very well executed.
Cons: The venue feels more like an oven and some accents are a bit questionable.
Our Verdict: Enjoyable, accessible, fresh and lively Shakespeare.
Courtesy of The Lion & Unicorn Theatre
Kat Wootton took a big gamble on the subject matter for Hamlet at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre. We all know Hamlet, but for her adaptation she has changed the lead character from a historical Danish Prince to a modern stroppy moody teenager with an iPhone. It’s a brave idea, and one that on the surface sounds a bit mad, but don’t be fooled into thinking it won’t work. Not only does it work; it’s absolutely fantastic.
It turns out that Hamlet’s behaviour suits that of a modern day teenager perfectly. The lines never sound out of place; ‘she’ is subbed for ‘he’ in a script that is still wonderfully applicable. The best thing about the gender swap is that it is limited solely to Hamlet. That’s right – Ophelia is still a female role and that gives the play a brilliant level of depth in examining the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.
They approach each other as giggly best friends who are exploring crossing that line between friendship and sexual attraction. Their relationship is not just about how they relate to each other and becoming more sexually aware as part of their coming of age, it’s also about dealing with a certain amount of teenage experimentation in the most innocent of ways. There’s no doubt they love each other; but the nature of this love is changeable. Is it the love of a deep close friendship, or is it a romantic love? It’s very interesting food for thought, and is excellently acted.
The acting is very well done across the board, but the strength is in the lead roles. Hamlet handles her role impeccably well; her tears are moving, her social interactions sulky yet brilliant. Ophelia is equally delightful. Stunningly beautiful with clever comedic timing. She is also a wise teenager, who like Hamlet, delights in out-smarting the adults around her, until her madness – also flawlessly handled- drives her to her watery grave.
Polonius is also wonderful in his speech, intrusions, and use of body language. Although the character displays several annoying qualities, it’s easy to feel sorrow at his death given how well he is acted out in this instance. It is a shame we could not find actors’ names to give them their full credit in this review.
It’s a very good play, in a very good pub, and it makes clever use of the stage available. There’s a bit of smoke and mirrors with the lighting, and the opening scene, lit only by flashlights, is a really interesting way to bring the cold Danish outdoors into the room. The scene swaps done using only chairs and an elevated platform are set to modern angst-ridden music, which works nicely.
An inexplicable choice of accents confuse and dull the narrative slightly, and the heat in the room makes the play feel longer than it is. This is unfortunate, as the likeability of the play’s title role should make this adaptation a breeze to watch even if it is one of Shakespeare’s longest. This is Shakespeare for all ages, and it’s especially accessible to teenagers. Even if they aren’t the future King of Denmark, they will relate to this—and not only that, they will enjoy it too.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Hamlet runs at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre until 30th November 2013.
Box Office: 08444 771 000 or book online at: http://www.ticketweb.co.uk/search.php?tm_link=tm_header_search&language=en-us&keyword=hamlet

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One comment

  1. Cast and crew list can be found here : http://www.kdctheatre.com/2013/hamlet-cast-crew-biographies/ and in programmes available at the door.

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