Shakespeare’s plays have endured because their themes are universal. Beyond space, place and time the audience can relate to the characters and find connections to their own lives. Simon Godwin’s Hamlet (see listing) relocates this story to an African setting with the drama and vividness of the play brought to life with drums, colour and a predominantly black cast.
Many people have been a little hesitant of Shakespeare because of the language, yet as film and stage have shown when you give it a chance the language barriers melt away and you are able to engage with that which is before you – the lesson and heart of Shakespeare’s plays.
This production of Hamlet comprises a strong cast with a particularly absorbing performance by Paapa Essiedu as Hamlet. Other stand out characters were James Cooney’s Horatio and Mimi Ndiweni as Ophelia. Though all the cast master and make their characters their own which ensures a very good performance and enjoyable evening out.
With its new home at the Hackney Empire this is an opportunity for residents to step into a world where quintessential Britain meets the seemingly cultural opposite of this imagined African country yet, we are shown that at the heart of it all humans and human folly is global and timeless.