Blind Hamlet

Anyone expecting anything like Hamlet will be sorely disappointed. This apparent take on the Shakespearean tragedy centres on a man who has never seen the famous play because of his poor vision, but whose voice we hear on a sound recording. The writer fondly murmurs, not about Hamlet, and not about very much at all. We hear memories of ashtrays, playwriting, and his wife, with the drawl of a man appreciating his life even as it becomes hindered by his fading sight. These musings are interspersed with a surprising amount of attention on the audience, some of whom are called up to the stage by the ‘stage manager’ to respond to the writer’s statements in their own way.

One wonders if Blind Hamlet was put on in its present form merely to avoid a hefty cancellation fee when no one finished writing the promised script.

The result is neither a touching exposition on a man’s slow loss of sight, nor a clever play on audience expectation. It isn’t very much of a show at all – more of an overhead conversation with a not-very-interesting gentleman at a nearby table. The smartest thing the show does is call itself something as enticing as Blind Hamlet, when the only mentions of the play are concerning the writer’s lack of familiarity with it, or a couple of recordings of “To be, or not to be”. The show’s publicity is simply misleading, claiming to retell Hamlet as an ‘interactive theatrical battle’. One wonders if Blind Hamlet was put on in its present form merely to avoid a hefty cancellation fee when no one finished writing the promised script.

Some moments aim at humour, usually when the recorded voice appears to engage in conversation with the live audience. Something nearing laughter would occasionally emerge from the rows behind me, but it was always from the same two seats. It is simply not the endearing piece it assumes to be.

The audience games that end the show presumably aim at some poignancy or other, regarding awareness of the people around you when we have the gift of sight and sound to connect to each other. But it comes across more like a get-to-know-you drama workshop. The huge reliance on input from potentially dull theatregoers also doesn’t assist a show that is already limp.

The vaguely meta-theatrical musings and half-baked audience participation don’t really warrant an hour of anyone’s time at the Fringe. One wonders why the company bothered at all.

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The Blurb

Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour confronts the slow loss of his sight and the fact that he’s never read Hamlet. But with tragedy looming, he chooses instead to play with the truth and fiction, chance and fate. A surprise-laden meditation on what it means to act and interact in a shrinking world, Blind Hamlet is theatre about choices in which the audience chooses. From the writer of international hit White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. Produced by ATC, winner of a 2013 Fringe First Award with The Events, which was also voted Best Play of 2013 by critics in The Guardian.