The insane Dane

Seeing lots of theatre as I do and being of a particular personality type, I am drawn to productions that dare to challenge the status quo and fly in the face of tradition. That risk taking sometimes ends in disaster but fearlessness is a commendable trait and can result in terrific theatre. Sean Holmes’s Hamlet (Sam Wanamaker Playhouse, Globe Theatre) is terrifically entertaining, it’s also way too long but the sum total of many crazy parts is just the kind of theatre to attract a younger crowd into such lauded venues. My companion, a niece in her early teens who lives on her phone, didn’t actually check her social media tidal wave until well towards the end of a romp that lasts over three hours.
The first clue of the playfulness to come is a set by designer Grace Smart that consists of a round pool (perfect for paddling and we were tempted) surrounded by walls which throughout the duration of the play, turn into the kind of thing you find on a council estate or the skateboard park on the Southbank, a blank page for street art though in this case it is more scrawling than Banksy. Nevertheless it remains as a constant reminder of the dichotomous nature of Holmes’s approach which is mad but meaningful, bearing in mind this is a tragedy all about madness.
Where else would you find the grief stricken and surly Prince of Denmark, played by George Fouracres, dressed as though he has escaped from an episode of The Young Ones. Clad in charity shop clothing and bovver boots, sounding as though Adrian Edmondson was his voice tutor, a man riddled with contradictions and prone to voluminous exclamations. Meanwhile his mother Gertrude (Polly Frame) could easily be mistaken for Edna the Inebriate Woman, a 1970’s drama character, permanently under the influence. When she drinks a cup of poison destined for her son, she mutters the line “No, no, the drink,—O my dear Hamlet—The drink, the drink! I am poison’d”. And so she dies sipping champagne, an ‘Ab Fab’ way to go. Quite a family.
Those expecting Shakespearean language, this is what could be best described as a variation in a theme with scope for improvisation. Best portrayed by the production’s resident guitarist (Ed Gaughan) who later becomes a gravedigger and takes every opportunity to take the mickey out of the Bard and those who revere formal theatre so to speak. He is the beating insolent heart of the piece and Holmes endows him with wit and wisdom, a working class anti-hero.
Throw in an eclectic musical soundtrack, which ranges from rap to Tchaikovsky and its embracing of a gender fluid world (please don’t ask me to explain), you realise that this is poetic license running free. Love it or hate it you cannot but admire its bold, innovative and for the most part hilarious approach.
And Sotira Kyriakides goes down musical memory lane…
If, like me, you went to see Saturday Night Fever (Peacock Theatre) at the cinema when it was released in that heady year of 1977, it has become part of your nostalgia spectrum, and all those Bee Gee classics evoke a whole era. This is unavoidably the case with this production too, as it pays homage to disco. Richard Windsor, who plays the Travolta role in this production, is undeniably cute, but lacks Travolta’s presence and dance floor skills. The whole cast has a lot to live up to and, by and large, falls short on the dance moves. The exception is Olivia Fines, who plays the female lead.
Don’t get me wrong – everything else about this production, including the choreography – rather than its execution – is exceptional. The live music and singing of all the Bee Gee tracks are stunning, as is the clever set design. Despite the fact that the dancing does not live up to the high expectations set by the film, as the evening unfolds you can’t help but bop to the beat in your seat. And for the Cypriot talent spotters amongst you, look out for the talented Marios Nicolaides, who plays Frank Junior.

Hamlet – www.shakespearesglobe.com
Saturday Night Fever – www.sadlerswells.com

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