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Laugh Out Loud Hamlet!

Ladi Emeruwa and Naeem Hayal as Hamlet

“Di show a go slap weh!” calls Tom Lawrence in what was hopefully his best Jamaican accent. Lawrence and the rest of the 12-member cast had just finished the opening musical prelude to what, until then, many of us, with good reason, considered to be a tragedy, Hamlet. And ‘slap weh’ it did! 

The production, of Hamlet, directed by Dominic Dromgoole and produced by Shakespeare’s Globe is on a global tour in commemoration of The Bard’s 450th birthday. The production, which is slated to hit every country in the world in two years, has been dubbed Globe to Globe Hamlet.

Under Dromgoole’s direction, this rendition of Hamlet tunes into a lighter spirit, that many of us probably never saw within it. What Dromgoole outlines is that comedies and tragedies often tread opposite sides of the same coin. So, with a flick of the word and intonation, Hamlet, despite retaining its tragic end revels in a lightheartedness that is absolutely delightful.

This is laugh-out-loud Hamlet

The rendition of the tragedy (we will continue to call it that despite the hilarity) is fast-paced, highly entertaining, occasionally bawdy and downright fun. An enjoyable light-hearted rendition which still manages to keep in touch with the pathos of Hamlet throughout.

Hamlet, played by Naheem Hayat (who alternates with Ladi Emeruwa) is almost cast in the shadow of an anti-hero. This Hamlet, retains the prince’s hallmark indecisiveness, the trait that ultimately leads to his own downfall. But here, he is also physically unimpressive, and from the moment he hits the he seems to be in a less than sound state of mind, even before he begins to pretend to give in to madness.

Hamlet’s ponderous philosophical statements have been duly sharpened on a whetstone to more closely effect the rapier with of The Fool, which in so many ways, the absence of motley garbs aside, he is. 

With the exception of the Hayat (and Emeruwa) the actors don multiple roles, and each wears them well. The other members of the cast are Amanda Wilkin (Ophelia), Keith Bartlett, John Dougall, Phoebe Fideles, Mirander Foster, Jennifer Leong, Tom Lawrence, Beruce Khan, Rawiri Paratene, and Matthew Romaine. 

Wilkin makes a great Ophelia, imbuing the doomed girl with a like-ability that allows you to easily relate to her. However, in many ways, John Dougall’s Polonius steals the show. This rendition of Polonius is hilarious and you simply miss his wit when he is slain.

The production is designed for travel and rather than attempting to recreate battlements and castles, it works with a mobile symbolic set and all set changes are conducted by the players. 

The Kingston performance, held in The Little Theatre, was conducted with the house lights on, which was explained as an attempt to create the effect of the open air at The Globe. The production hits Eastern Caribbean in September where it will stop in Antigua and Barbuda (September 2, Nelson’s Dock Yard), St. Kitts and Nevis (September 4), St. Lucia (September 9, Gaiety on Rodney Bay), Barbados (September 11, Church Village Green Amphitheatre), Dominica, Greneda (September 16, St. Georges) and St. Vincent and the Grenadines (Kingstown, September 13). It journeys to Trinidad and Tobago in October.

Globe to Globe Hamlet is certainly an experience worth having. It is a delightful take on a classic that manages to find whimsy where there really should be none.