Waiting for Hamlet has itself been waiting for some time. David Visick’s play won the Kenneth Branagh New Writing Award over two years ago and then everything closed down. With the help of the Brighton Fringe Michael Graney Bursary it has now made its debut courtesy of Smokescreen Productions and can be seen in the intimate setting of the Rialto Theatre as part of this year’s Brighton Fringe.
it's a joy to see these masters of their craft work their magic
It’s a simple plot but as might be imagined from the title, the thrill of the play is in the execution of the dialogue. Set before the tragedy of Hamlet begins, it places the Old King (Tim Marriott) in the afterlife with his jester, Yorick (Nicholas Collett). Locked down in limbo, the Old King has difficulty in adjusting to his new life, or rather his lack of it. He seems to think he can just leave and go back to Denmark whenever he wants to right the wrongs that were done to him. However, the royal prerogative ceased with his death and he has to learn from Yorick the limitations of life in the underworld.
Marriott has said that in this play you have “two old fools, playing two old fools”. They are, of course, two highly accomplished and profoundly skilled actors of the sort this play demands. Marriott will be remembered by many from the 90s sit-coms The Brittas Empire and 'Allo 'Allo! while Collett is a verteran of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Their years of experience show. Like Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and Samuel Beckett's Waiting for Godot, Waiting for Hamlet is about speed of execution, timing, bouncing off each other and a close working relationship of camaraderie. These two veterans have all of that.
In this first staging there were, no doubt, some nerves. This type of script presents enormous challenges and its delivery matures with every performance, while the actors’ enjoyment of its inherent fun becomes more obvious. Yet, even in these very earliest days of its development, it's a joy to see these masters of their craft work their magic.