Thursday 10 February 2022

Hamlet - Review

Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Sean Holmes

George Fouracres

"Fuck you Fortinbras!", as uttered by Claudius, is but one of the early revisions to Hamlet that Sean Holmes subjects us to in this, the first production of the play to be performed in the candlelit intimacy of the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at Shakespeare's Globe. 

At least in 1994, when Disney offered up their take on Hamlet, they had the decency to re-name their version 'The Lion King'. The artistic team at the Globe lack such grace. Their interpretation of this finest of tragedies is sloppy in its revisions with text chopped and re-written, inappropriate songs and chants introduced and amidst a general demolition of the fourth wall, audience singalongs included too. Perhaps the Globe's team had taken Shakespeare's description of his audience to heart, the groundlings being "for the most part capable of nothing but inexplicable dumbshows and noise". Either way, it is notable that no name is posted in the credits to take responsibility for this ghastly adaptation.

This Hamlet comes across as no-more than a big budget student production, a play more likely to have graced the Edinburgh Fringe, rather than one of the country's leading Shakespearean venues. At least at Edinburgh the tickets would have been considerably cheaper and the show would have been likely to have lasted little more than 1 hour, rather than the interminable 3+ hours on offer here.

Ultimately it is hard to say what is more troubling. The butchery to which Shakespeare's prose has been subject or the rapturous applause, standing ovation even, that the whooping audience bestowed upon the production. This reviewer is privileged to be familiar with the text, having seen the play on many occasions over the decades. On the night that this production was attended, the Playhouse was packed with at least two parties of of school students. What a betrayal that these young people are being exposed to, seeing Hamlet perhaps for the first time in their lives, performed at times as little more than a pantomime with so much of Shakespeare’s verse savaged.

This is cultural vandalism of which the Globe’s trustees should be ashamed. The one star rating is for George Fouracres' decent work in the title role and by John Lightbody as Polonius. The rest is silence.

Runs until 9th April
Photo credit: Johan Persson

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