Hamlet! The Musical

Hamlet! The Musical has been around for a few years now, since being first introduced to the Fringe in 2001. It has come to be regarded as a way of introducing the story both to teenagers and to those adults who wouldn’t dream of going to see a ‘straight’ Shakespeare play. In other productions in recent years I’ve seen Hamlet as a pantomime and also with the setting changed to a secondary school, with similar aims.In this production, Hamlet is portrayed as a baseball cap wearing adolescent with an accent straight from Eastenders. Claudius is oily and suave while Gertrude is seductive and sexy. Laertes is trying to be Spanish at the beginning before leaving Denmark but has convinced himself he’s French by the time he returns. In other words, it’s not intended to be taken at all seriously.The cleverest, and funniest, idea is the depiction of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as puppetss – using genuine actors’ heads with puppet bodies, inside a large cabinet. This seems particularly appropriate, given the way they are used by Claudius to spy on Hamlet, despite their friendship with him and the way that Hamlet casually consigns them to death in his place.The duel between Hamlet and Laertes at the end of the play is also very funny. I won't give anything away except to say that in this production they don't duel with swords.The music is fairly unexceptional and the lyrics are not particularly memorable, the best being ‘To Be Or Not To Be’, sung by the whole cast. The production uses a live orchestra, which plays extremely well, whatever is happening around them. The cast is very enthusiastic and committed, and play their roles as they should do, over the top but with completely straight faces. The performance I attended had a very large audience of all ages, who clearly enjoyed every moment of it.

Reviews by Alan Chorley

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The Blurb

'Brilliantly irreverent' (Channel 4). A fast-paced, blissfully funny celebration of rapier-sharp wit set to a sumptuous score. Six fearless actors and a live orchestra shake up Shakespeare's tragedy in this immaculately observed comedy. See it or Elsinore!