‘‘Twas the season of the greyest of sweatpants, when sat in a circle nine young folks meet to… talk.’

Credit: Charles Flint

This production of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is truly one that explores the text and takes a completely new angle. The captivating opening scene is just one of the many surprises that made me love artistic director Ricky Dukes’ take on the classic.

The tragedy of Hamlet begins shortly after his father the King of Denmark dies, and his mother hastily marries the late king’s brother, who usurps the throne. On a cold winter night two sentries and Hamlet’s friend Horatio approach the grieving prince to tell him about the strange sighting of a ghost resembling Hamlet’s father. Following that ghost the next night, Hamlet learns that the late king was murdered by his own brother and is asked to avenge the untimely death. Planning to feign madness to plot revenge, Hamlet tumbles head over heals into tragic events leading to death and (self-)destruction.

This Lazarus Theatre Company’s production explores a variety of very current challenges and concepts, including mental health, identity, social inclusion, love, suicide, and death. By removing the adults from the play and thereby telling the story through the eyes of the youth, Dukes brilliantly accomplishes one of the company’s goals: making classic works accessible for a contemporary audience. The creative team does a fantastic job in using the space of the Southwark Playhouse. The lighting concept by designer Stuart Glover is spot-on, and the use of video that Charles Flint introduced makes a powerful addition to the performance.

Credit: Charles Flint

What really impressed me was the exceptional cast. Michael Hawkey professionally debuting and taking on the titular role was a delight to witness – his expressions, his gradient descent into madness, his presence! His performance is unmissable. Lexine Lee’s Ophelia is a quiet but powerful counterpart. The devotion of Horatio (Alex Zur) whilst swearing to keep Hamlet’s plot to feign madness secret is passionate. Kalifa Taylor delivered the First Player’s first speech with an exquisite precision of the lines. The comedic timing of Juan Hernandez, Keira Murray and Sam Morris while acting out the ‘play within the play’ is brilliant. The first encounter between Hamlet, Rosencrantz (Amber Mendez-Martin) and Gildenstern (Raj Swamy) is perfectly awkward. I couldn’t get enough. Bringing it all together is Micha Colombo as ‘The Voice.’ This is a very well done take on representing all the adults throughout the play.

Hamlet at the Southwark Playhouse is a 90-minute powerhouse of a classic text in a modernised coat that captivated throughout every moment of the play. You can catch it until the 4th of February.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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