King Hamlin at Park Theatre
King Hamlin is a timely play about choices: the choice of whether to listen to your friend or your parents, and the choice between the straight-and-narrow and the temptations of crime.
From playwright Gloria Williams, and set against the backdrop of a deprived area in North London, the production follows the exploits of Hamlin King (Harris Cain) who is struggling to find a job, finish his schooling and help his mother, who takes care of Hamlin on her own since the death of his father. His best mate Quinn (played with a wonderfully balanced flair by Inaam Barwani) soon becomes involved in a criminal exploit with their old friend Nic (Andrew Evans), forcing Hamlin to decide which path to take.
The story itself is not necessarily something new, especially for London: it’s a social fable, filled with the tragedy and drama people naturally come to expect from the genre. That doesn’t mean King Hamlin tells it poorly, however, and the play’s twists, turns and powerful soliloquies keep the action moving. The characters are similarly engaging, especially in the moments where it’s clear that Hamlin, Quinn and Nic share a similarly troubled past.
The explosiveness of the production does, however, prove to be a bit of a downside, especially when it would benefit from taking a step back. Its often-unrelenting pace and frenetic energy overshadow the importance of the quieter conversations, meaning some scenes don’t pack the emotional punch they should.
It feels as though the actors aren’t always given enough time to fully inhabit the characters, despite the cast being quite excellent, especially Kiza Deen as Hamlin’s mother, and Williams’s dialogue is often both funny and poignant. This is best shown in the few instances where the play does slow down, allowing for natural monologues that both reach the peak of dramatic crescendo and fill the space with silence. These moments are probably just a bit too few and far between.
For many, King Hamlin will appear to walk on well-trodden ground, but that doesn’t mean it has nothing to say on its subject.
King Hamlin is at Park Theatre from 19th October until 12th November 2022. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch the trailer for King Hamlin here: