Reviewer's rating

Winder’s version of Hamlet is, in theory, an interesting modern take on Shakespeare, seeking to convey a commentary about gender and political oppression, but it falls short in its execution.

The production is set in a near-future England in the grips of a fascist dictator, Claudius (Vinta Morgan) who have acceded the throne in the wake of his brother’s death. The spectre of the old king appears to the guards, staggering around the gardens, and reveals that Claudius was responsible for his murder. Horatio (Harold Addo) records the encounter on his phone and shows it to Hamlet (Jenet Le Lacheur), the son of the old king. Untrusting of this revelation and his own psychological state, Hamlet devises a plan to confirm his uncle’s crime: he will stage a play re-telling his father’s murder to induce a display of guilt from Claudius, which will resolve his indecision about joining the growing resistance.

A unique aspect of this production is the videography, which works better in some parts than others. While the display of the ghost footage on the screens creates excessive stimuli that don’t really aid the narrative, the propaganda broadcasts are effective in emphasising the ubiquity of the fascist media in this repressive regime. We also view Hamlet’s – now a figure of the resistance and exiled in Denmark – mobile recorded messages, which, via social media, can be transmitted to the masses despite the state’s control of the media. The leafy outdoor setting of St. Paul’s church does not fit particularly well with the repressive atmosphere of a surveillance-state, but more damaging to this production is the numerous times the audience is moved around the grounds which considerably disrupts the narrative. At times the plot is confusing, particularly the jolting appearance of an acting troop who unexpectedly flood the stage dancing in vibrant and sparkling costume.

Non-binary transgender actor Jenet Le Lacheur convincingly portrays a psychologically tormented Hamlet, however, the production lacks depth in its treatment of gender. Horatio affectionately calls Hamlet, ‘my Lady’, but this reference is used excessively in his dialogue to the extent that it comes across as forced. The other characters presume Hamlet to be a man, so ideas of gender identity in this politically oppressive context remain unexplored. It’s a shame that the interesting conceptual underpinnings of this play were not realised.