Hamlet at Hackney Empire
Paapa Essiedu exceeds all expectations as the iconic Danish prince in this gripping clash of colours and darkness. Once again, a stunning production of Hamlet graces a London stage.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. The king has died, Prince Hamlet mourns and his mother is already remarried… to his uncle. But the king’s ghost soon appears to the young man and a story of betrayal, revenge, torment and terror follows.
Although often referred to as Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy, Hamlet is far more than just sad. Some of the Bard’s best comedic lines feature in this work and are delivered with brilliant timing by Essiedu and Joseph Mydell, who plays Polonius the fool.
This particular adaptation, directed by Simon Godwin, is dressed in Ghanaian patterns and costumes and is also enlivened by African drumming throughout. Even so, it is all true to the original narrative. It is certainly refreshing to see a nearly all-black ensemble and African culture is always interesting given how rarely British audiences are exposed to it. However, it does feel like the play falls short of actually making its point: Why have the characters made these decisions – simply because they can, or is there a deeper meaning to it all? If so, what? Though, these unanswered questions don’t take anything away from this incredibly well directed and performed production.
There isn’t a weak link among the cast and although this doesn’t feel like quite as much of a one-man show as some stagings of the play, Paapa Essiedu still very much steals it. It is clear to see why this adaptation has been deemed worthy of an international tour and this is very much down to Essiedu’s tremendous performance; he is achingly stormy and amazing to watch.
Godwin’s Hamlet is brilliant in every way, a thoroughly moving piece of theatre and a chance to see one of the UK’s finest young actors stun the room in one of the toughest roles available to any performer. Absolutely, positively recommended for all.
Photo: Manuel Harlan
Hamlet is at Hackney Empire from 6th until 31st March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for Hamlet here: