Spirit of the Dane

If Shakespeare’s greatest characters could talk, what would they say? Would they be happy about their storylines and demise, and how would they feel about all of the… “modern” interpretations of their character? Spirit of the Dane, an original and highly creative piece from Tony Cronin, shows us how Shakespeare greats Hamlet and Lady Macbeth might have answered these questions.

Wise, funny and clever

The prince of Denmark is back, and he has several things he wants to get off his chest. In Spirit of the Dane, fictional characters’ spirits are given human form. They come alive to tell us what it’s like being stuck in their idea of perpetual and constant ‘hell’ as millions interpret their story in a variety of ways (all wrong!) around the globe. Tony Cronin plays the young Hamlet; he is funny, naïve, a mummy’s boy and completely disagrees with how William (Shakespeare) killed him off. The first part of the performance focuses on Hamlet and his love for words, and the lines given to other great Shakespeare characters. Cronin as Hamlet reminds me of the eccentric, slightly mad, English professor you had in school or university – the one that taught you different interpretations of popular works and managed, through his weird madness, to make you really love English literature. His ramblings and musings are fascinating, and contain some deliciously clever comic moments. 

Hamlet is later joined by Lady MacBeth (Julia McIlvaine), whose broad Scottish attitude and sexualised nature strikes a strong contrast to Hamlet’s more refined conversation. The two characters talk with us about the morality of their actions in their respective plays, contemplating the legacy and message that each of their characters leaves for humankind. The entire piece references several Shakespearean plays and the level of detail and in-depth analysis taken in the writing of the script is impressive. 

However, despite all the very cleverly thought-out dialogue and creative concepts, there was a loss of momentum in the story being told mid-way through the performance. The story itself could have benefited from being slightly shorter, perhaps, or being interjected with more comical quips. Understandably, this play is directed at the Shakespearean enthusiast, the literature-lover, but at points the storyline or script was almost trying too hard to be witty and that created small lulls. However, the acting from both Cronin and McIlvaine is the real reason to see this performance – Cronin is a delightful combination of cheeky, vulnerable and proud, whilst McIlvaine’s anguish and yearning for her dead child is hauntingly beautiful to watch.

Spirit of the Dane is wise, funny, clever and will leave you pondering the meaning of these fictional characters and their stories in ways you never have before. Maybe if all English and drama were taught like this in school we’d all have ended up going on to study and enjoy more Shakespeare.

Reviews by Sarah Virgo

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The Blurb

Spirit of the Dane brings the characters Hamlet and Lady Macbeth together on stage. The two Shakespearean icons struggle to find meaning to their existence in the modern world: a world that refuses to see them as they were written by William Shakespeare. At its core the play is a comedy, but audiences have found it engaging and moving as well. Performed by Tony Cronin and Julia McIlvane – two professional actors from Los Angeles – Spirit of the Dane is a romp through the peculiar minds of two of Shakespeare's greatest characters.