Review - Hamlet, Royal & Derngate, Northampton

Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet is outstanding in this production.
Paapa Essiedu's Hamlet is outstanding in this production.

I might get this out of the way now. I really don't like Shakespeare.

Yes, I know, I can hear the academics and scholars fainting in surprise as someone dares to criticise the immortal Bard but ever since it was unfortunately rammed down my throat at school, it's something which I have for the most part detested.

But I am open minded and prepared to try and give this another go, and an RSC production seems like an appropriate avenue for further exploration.

Following the well told story of Hamlet about the young prince avenging his father's untimely death at the hand of his uncle, this is perhaps an unusual take.

Out go the ruffs and tights and in comes African drums and a predominantly black cast in this very different take on the revenge tale.

While the production is presumably done with a view of bringing The Bard's work to a new audience is commendable, nothing is done to shorten the play's considerable text. At three hours and 10 minutes, this is a slog and it wasn't helped by the technical fault back stage which only added to the running time. Even though there is plenty of intensity and emotions from the actors, you sensed that a slightly more judicious version of the script may have had a little more impact amongst those who might have tried this out for curiosity value.

One thing that is outstanding in this show is Paapa Essiedu in the title role. Despite his tender years, he is every inch a leading man and more than comfortable holding his own. He breathes new life into the play's most famous lines and handles the material with aplomb. I suspect a very very long career awaits.

It is an interesting interpretation of the show, I suspect there would be plenty of people who enjoyed this show. I'm afraid to say that I wasn't one of them but for me, that's a fault with the text and not with the production.

Hamlet can be seen at Northampton's Royal & Derngate until Saturday. For tickets, call the box office on 01604 624811 or click here.