For some students, this performance of Shakespeare’s play was their first. Expectations of stiff necked, anguished actors in Elizabethan costumes were soon overturned. “Denmark” was transposed to a despotic African dominion reeling after political reshuffles, edgy and heady in atmosphere, alienating Hamlet from everything familiar. Hamlet, (Paapa Essiedu) was portrayed as an anti-establishment graffiti artist who caught the audience’s sympathy, a man-child embodying this era’s youth, perhaps.
The ghost, (Ewart James Walters), Hamlet’s late father, ascended from heavenly realms in spongy clouds, then a scene later, ascended from beneath a trapdoor, wreathed in hellish smoke, a shaman in limbo. His gravelly voice counterpointed with discordant drums as he eyeballed Hamlet unblinkingly, exhorting revenge.
The enunciation of the cast was bright and beautiful. Another highlight was the gambolling players whose flamboyance stole the show with joyous musicians evoking the Festival au Désert. Original in concept, minimalist in stagecraft, (even though there was a naval frigate looming backstage as well as aircraft overhead), this was the RSC company at its most experimental and a treat for all. A particular thank you to parents and boarding staff who waited up for our return.
Deputy Head of the English Faculty
Photos courtesty of www.rsc.org.uk