★★★★ Hamlet Peckham | CLF Theatre | 1-27 February
A fresh and imaginative staging of one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, Hamlet Peckham succeeds in breathing fresh ideas to a much told story…
The positives of staging any of Shakespeare’s best-known works – most-times, they’re better known because they’re the best – are often outweighed by the negatives, namely that (over)familiarity can breed contempt. Certainly, anyone still recovering from forced over-analysis of the text at school probably curses whenever they hear about which A-List actor will next be tackling Hamlet.
Rejoice, then, in a refreshingly innovative-but-not-to-the-point-of-pretentious-wankdom staging of Hamlet at the CLF Theatre in Peckham’s Bussey Building, from the Shakespeare Peckham team that won awards for 2013’s Othello Peckham.
Anthony Green returns to the helm, having been nominated for Best Director at the Off The West End Awards 2014 for the successful Othello run (itself nominated for three ‘Offies’), masterfully directing a talented and diverse cast (age-, colour- and gender-blind) through a satisfyingly well-paced and (for me, eye-openingly) wryly funny trip into the mind of the Danish Prince.
The cast, though not small, play multiple roles – most obviously seeing Sharon Singh, Max Calandrew, and Izabella Urbanowicz taking turns as Hamlet him-/her-self. On paper, this might sound like gimmickry of the pretentious-wankdom variety, but having three actors portray Hamlet not only makes sense (he is, after all, a conflicted character) but works to make the Prince more welcome company (he can get a bit ranty…).
Perhaps there could have been more Peckham in Hamlet Peckham – an expectation that this might feel more site and location specific went unrealised – but perhaps the importance of the locale in this instance is to undo the preconceptions and expectations which surround such a famous and much-performed play.
That said, there should be no doubting the great achievement here: a unique interpretation of one of drama’s most interpreted characters, performed with energy and commitment, expertly paced and laced with dark humour – a Hamlet one can enthusiastically sit through, which is saying a hell of a lot!