Tuesday 28 May 2024

Hamlet - Review

Riverside Studios, London


Written by William Shakespeare
Directed by Selina Cadell

Eddie Izzard

With earrings, acrylics, heels and skin-tight leather trousers it is clear that Eddie Izzard’s take on the Prince of Denmark is at least as much about asserting the actor’s femininity as it is about an interpretation of one of Shakespeare’s most enigmatic characters.

As a solo turn that lasts for two and a half hours incl interval this Hamlet is undoubtedly a display of remarkable stamina and fortitude but Izzard’s performance comes across as more about ticking the boxes of ‘doing a Hamlet’ rather than offering any new comment on the play. The clumsily truncated dialogue is frequently rushed and disappointingly for a press night, often stumbled over, and for those not familiar with Shakespeare’s carefully crafted verse the evening will have offered little insight into the nuanced classic yarn. 

Izzard's background in stand-up serves the performance well in the gravedigger scene which is genuinely funny - elsewhere however there needed to have been more matter with less Commedia dell'arte. Playing the final act’s swordfight for laughs, be they intended or not, detracts from the story’s tragedy.

Strip away Izzard’s celebrity status and it is hard to imagine this Hamlet commanding much box office success. As Shakespeare himself wrote (in a speech that Izzard's adapter, brother Mark Izzard, has chosen to excise from this production) “it offends me to the soul to hear a robustious periwig-pated fellow tear a passion to tatters, to very rags.” Izzard and director Selina Cadell should have heeded those words.

Runs until 30th June
Photo credit: Amanda Searle

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